Feedback from Healthier Community forums leads to action

Forums that began in February were geared to creating a list of future projects based on the highest-priority needs.

One of the results of a series of Healthy Community public forums held last winter

A network of local health/social service agencies has been collaborating to tackle the most urgent and complex social issues in Chilliwack.

Top issues that came out of the Chilliwack Healthier Community series included public safety, mental health/addictions, affordable housing and homelessness.

“Service providers are in agreement that there’s a huge lack of awareness about what everyone else is doing,” said CHC coordinator Sabine Mendez. It gets in the way of streamlining solutions and creating synergies.

A series of forums that began in February was spread out over five weeks, and geared to creating a list of  projects based on the community’s highest-priority needs.

One of the results is a Public Safety workshop, now slated for May 28 at Chilliwack City Hall in council chambers.

“It’s a little public safety presentation to allow people a chance to hear some simple ideas on everything from personal safety, to keeping their homes and vehicles more secure,” said Mendez.

“This session was in direct response to what we heard at the first forum, when someone raised their hand and asked where they could go to learn more.”

There were up to 60 attendees at some of the sessions, from a broad range of more than 20 groups and agencies, and they came up with 18 potential projects.

According to feedback from recent Chilliwack Healthier Community public forums, one of the obstacles is the “silo” principle. “Silo mentality” is when everyone is working on a problem in isolation, unconnected to the greater whole, which can cause duplication of services and inefficiencies.

“Groundwork has already been laid for six of those projects, which will be among our areas of focus over the next year,” Mendez said.

They include many of the same themes, and persistent social challenges that keep getting raised in Chilliwack over the past 13 years.

Mendez noted the housing aspect is being addressed through the Mayor’s Committee on Housing, and another generated the creation of a Task Team that is working on a series of public-safety workshops, with the first on May 28.

The “outcomes” from the forums will be reflected in the CHC Strategic Action Plan, a guide for city and CHC initiatives around community health and well-being over the next three years.

Forum Five on March 12 at the Cultural Centre saw brainstorming of four “action plans,” with dozens of participants indicating interest in being involved.

The four projects that received the highest votes by forum participants were:

•  low-barrier housing — to provide supportive housing for people with mental-health and substance-use issues;

•  assertive case management — to help individuals with mental challenges;

•  family-friendly policy — to take a family-centred approach to physical and mental-health issues; and

•  peer mentoring —to help vulnerable youth gain positive experiences and opportunities through interaction with role models.

“We’re really pleased and excited about the turnout and broad level of participation (in the forums),” said CHC co-chair Ken Popove. “We’re updating the Action Plan and laid some solid groundwork for where to go from here.”

Chilliwack Healthier Community is co-chaired by Chilliwack School District #33 and the city of Chilliwack. Popove shares chair duties with SD #33 School Board Trustee Dan Coulter.

CHC includes 20-plus partners who volunteer time beyond their regular jobs with local agencies, government, service providers, and other organizations. Funding for the forum series was provided by a grant from BC Healthy Communities.


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