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New community well-being and safety strategy presented to Lethbridge city committee

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New community well-being and safety strategy presented to Lethbridge community issues committee
WATCH ABOVE: Community well-being and safety in Lethbridge was front and centre Monday as members of city council met as the community issues committee. Danica Ferris has the details – May 6, 2019

After months of community engagement, including a survey filled out by more than 2,000 people, a new community well-being and safety strategy (CWSS) was submitted and presented to a city committee in Lethbridge on Monday.

Martin Thomsen, the manager of community social development, said his group worked tirelessly to factor public feedback into their proposal.

“We did over 300 interviews and sessions to really get into the trenches,” Thomsen said. “[We did that] to really get into the trenches, to really hear from the different communities and individuals, including the business community and different demographics.
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“We really put a tremendous amount of effort into bringing nuance to the data that we collected.”

Thomsen cited an “increase in social issues,” as well as the public’s awareness of those issues, as the motivating factor behind the new CWSS.

“It was loud and clear that we do have some pretty dominant social issues and problems such as homelessness, mental health issues, addiction problems… those all rose to the top [in our research].”

READ MORE: City of Lethbridge hosts community session in Phase 2 of plan to combat drug crisis

Monday’s proposal included four “key concepts”:

  • individual well-being
  • systems integration
  • collective impact/”shared vision”
  • community governance

Lead consultant Alina Turner pointed to good intentions, but poor execution in the pursuit of well-being and aiding with social issues.

“Well-being is not just a city issue,” she said. “It’s certainly something that a city government has a stake in, but it’s something that community groups, service providers, other government levels and departments have a stake in as well.

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“How could you possibly do a good job addressing well-being issues unless you’re going to do it together? And so the idea of community governance is to do exactly that, to create a process through which we can make better decisions together, rather than having one player dictate to the rest.”

If approved, the strategy would be implemented in two parts.

Phase 1 would be a “city-led” well-being and safety strategy where consolidation and co-ordination of city-controlled initiatives would begin, and a review and realignment of governance and committee structure would take place.

Funding allocations would also be examined in Phase 1.

The second phase would implement a “community-led” well-being and safety strategy; community integration and governance would be supported by the city.

“Instead of one body making the decisions — be it funding allocations, outcome measurement and so forth — you’re generating collective impact by getting all key groups and stakeholders together,” Thomsen said.

“By bringing in that community governance, those key stakeholders, the best ideas bubble to the top and you pool your resources and your knowledge.”

City council will reconvene on May 14 with a decision on whether or not to move forward with the strategy.

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