Lack of services, employment and isolation an issue in town, Caledon Community Services data shows

Focus will be on isolation, access, mental health and prevention, specifically targeting youth

by Matthew Strader

During a presentation to council on Feb. 20, Caledon Community Services highlighted data that shows some local residents feel the town is lacking in social services including mental health and addictions support.

“We’re trying to find out what issues are the most important to people living in our community,” said Michelle Veinot, director of community resources for CCS as she presented information by the Exchange collaborate, a group of 18 social service and service organizations working together.

Over the past two years, the group collected data from residents through community consultations, online surveys, community events and focus groups.

“People shared what their concerns were around social issues specific to Caledon,” Veinot said. “Caledon demographics tell a portion of what’s happening in our community, but they don’t really tell us how people feel. So we drew opinions from local residents, and helped us to find and describe the kind of community we are trying to be in our collaborative work.”

Veinot said 48 per cent of respondents felt that most people care about issues in Caledon, 63 per cent felt there were opportunities to get involved, 40 per cent reported they needed help and didn’t know where to look, 70 per cent said they had to leave Caledon to get the help they needed in the past 12 months, 54 per cent felt there was not enough employment opportunities, 44 per cent were unable to afford things they needed, 32 per cent were unable to pay their bills, 55 per cent felt cost of living was unreasonable and one in five surveyed felt isolated.

Overall, the group saw people feel a lack of supports and activities, for a really wide diverse group including children, young adults, seniors, newcomers. And a lack of support and insufficient mental health and addiction services.

As well, Veinot said, a real felling of a gap between the rich and the poor, and a lack of affordable nutritious food was expressed.

She said the Exchange collaborative decided to look at a focused area where they felt they could have the most impact.

“People who once in this community might have been welcomed and supported, are not feeling that way anymore. Newcomers, youth, seniors, those with disabilities, are feeling left out of the mix, and not being provided with supports and services.”

The group defined four priority actions: People positively interacting with each other, supporting one another, understanding and caring about challenges others facing, and people being aware of activities and services available in the community.

She said the conclusions also presented a challenge to the group. While this work is happening and services are being provided, they are still hearing people talk about feelings of isolation.

They worked with their data consultant, tiered the priority areas, and selected youth as their focus group.

“We’re only 18 organizations, and we can’t do everything at once, but we do know we can do some things better,” Veinot said. “We decided we’re going to specifically focus, for the next few years, around the themes of isolation, access, mental health and prevention, specifically targeting youth between the ages of 12 and 18. We felt we could have the most impact right away.”

Veinot said she was at the town council to ask them to be aware of the report, the work, and be advocates for it.

“Make sure you’re aware what’s happening, read the report, and ensure our efforts are working in synergy and in partnership rather than silos.”

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