Lethbridge City Council has unanimously approved the development of a Community Wellbeing and Safety Task Force. This important initiative will bring together community leaders and key stakeholders to develop a collaborative approach to achieving social change in Lethbridge.
In the City's 2020 Resident Satisfaction Survey, drugs and social issues were ranked as the issues of highest concern and City Council is taking action to address this.
"In a year where we were facing a global pandemic, Lethbridge residents ranked social issues ahead of COVID-19 as they biggest concern for our city," says Ryan Parker, City Councillor and Chair of the Community Safety Standing Policy Committee. "That speaks volumes to me and has sent a very strong message to my colleagues on City Council that this matters and we need to try something different."
The Community Wellbeing and Safety Task Force is part of Phase 2 of Lethbridge's Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy (CWSS) and will aim to create a community governance model founded on a shared vision, common objectives and efficient use of resources. This will be a made for Lethbridge solution developed by the community for the community.
Approved by City Council in 2019, the CWSS is a five-year strategic plan that identifies community priorities to inform and improve wellbeing and safety in Lethbridge. To coordinate and implement these strategies, the City of Lethbridge acts as the backbone administrative organization by convening, collaborating and advocating for a streamlined and integrated social service system.
During phase 1, the CWSS concepts were applied internally to Community Social Development strategies, committees and funding portfolios. The goal with Phase 2 is to apply these concepts community-wide.
The City, as the facilitator of the Task Force has one seat at the table and is introducing the idea of community governance. Twelve individual meetings have been organized over the last several weeks to engage community stakeholders, gather feedback and measure the level of interest and support.
"We've had some really excellent meetings with our community partners and stakeholders," says Mike Fox, City of Lethbridge Director of Community Services. "Everyone recognizes the need and we have so many passionate people ready to roll up their sleeves and get working. This next step will help us harness that energy and focus it on a shared vision and common goals. That is when we will see real success."
As the Community Wellbeing and Safety Task Force is being developed, the City will also be working with community partners and stakeholders to establish two short-term working groups to address immediate needs. The first will work to ensure that the City is better prepared to integrate social services into the community in a way that best balances the needs of individuals accessing services, service providers, private business owners and citizens. The second will focus more specifically on public safety concerns.
What are the stakeholders saying about the new Community Wellbeing Task Force?
"We know Lethbridge is experiencing heightened social challenges and addressing them effectively is not the job of any one organization. This approach is an excellent step to bring everyone to the table to coordinate resources, perspectives and effort with a goal of generating community-wide solutions and impact."
- Richard Thiessen, General Manager Silver Ridge Construction, Past President of Lethbridge Construction Association, Board Chair of the E-Free Church and member of the current Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy (CWSS)
"The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce applauds the strong efforts that the City has made in Phase 1 of the Community Wellness and Safety Strategy and are very eager to join in with the work to proceed with the Task Force. This task is extremely important for all of our citizens and there cannot be any further delays with an action plan. In a recent Town Hall we partnered with the City and had panelists from both business and social sectors share some of the pressure points of this issue. We are encouraged to see strong leaders willing to work together and create a solution to develop a balance and we would also thank the many volunteers who have dedicated their time to help move this forward."
- Cyndi Vos, CEO Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce
"We have to find the will and determination to effect change as difficult as some groups will find the candidness of this process."
- Richard Daley, Owner of Earl's restaurant
"Businesses and residents have clearly expressed their desire for crime to be addressed in our city. Lethbridge has an opportunity to bring social providers, enforcement agencies and businesses together. Candid discussions to define the root cause of the problem, and the impact to the community, is necessary to arrive at solutions supported by the entire city. Distinct plans to address homelessness, social issues and crime related to the drug crisis and the relationship between them can result by coordinating the work of social agencies and empowering our police to address and deter crime. We welcome the opportunity to find real world solutions for long identified issues that have defied past solutions."
- Ted Scholten, Manager of Hobgoblin Holdings Limited
"It has been a tough couple of years for the city of Lethbridge with the drug crisis followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Community Wellbeing and Safety Task Force is a breath of fresh air as it brings the community and stakeholders together in a solution based approach specifically designed for the challenges surrounding our city. It will take a team effort to turn things around and I know this group will come up with the plan to make Lethbridge the city we all know it can be."
- Justin Tavernini, Owner of O2 Training, Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) Board Chair
"If we truly decide to do what it takes to solve our social issues, I believe Lethbridge is the city that could lead the way. We have the people and expertise, all we need is the will and support of our community. Let's be the city that others want to emulate."
- Hunter Heggie, Owner of King of Trade, Downtown developer and past Chair of the Downtown BRZ
"We know that collaboration is key for this type of work. No one group can own this important work, rather we all need to be at the table to embody a vision through reconciliation. It is vital that our Indigenous community has a voice at this table and as we move forward I'm excited to see how we can transform our communities together."
- Treena Tallow, Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee Chair
"As a resident and business owner in the city, I have the privilege of living in a community with extremely well maintained infrastructure, outstanding water, utilities, parks and strong economy,. It is time we set a vision to have the same standard of excellence for social strategic planning, community resources, and infrastructure. I applaud the City of Lethbridge's approval of these important initiatives as they are important steps towards Lethbridge constructively addressing these complicated social issues and supporting why Lethbridge is one of the most attractive places to live and work in Canada."
- Ryan Miller, President & CEO of Teamwork Training Ltd.
"The Lethbridge Police Service is looking forward to participating in this collective impact committee that will bring together different stakeholders in the community to implement initiatives that will serve our community well. Social issues have a significant impact on police resources. Any time we can engage in a collaborative partnership with key stakeholders who have expertise in dealing with social issues, it's a positive step towards enhancing the safety and wellbeing of the community."
- Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh