In response to concerns regarding social challenges in the city’s downtown core exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brantford City Council appointed a Downtown Brantford Improvement Task Force (DBITF) to serve as a governance entity that focuses on and makes recommendations with respect to actions that the City and community partners will implement to improve the health, vitality and resiliency of the heart of our city.
At their last meeting held Thursday November 18th, 2021 members of the DBITF received a presentation detailing the summary of findings of a public engagement campaign to help inform the Task Force’s priorities. The “Let’s Talk About Improving our Downtown” engagement campaign ran on the City’s Let’s Talk Brantford (LTB) online platform from October 7 – November 7, 2021. During the campaign, 330 people visited the LTB project page and 175 people fully completed the online survey, while 25 additional individuals provided feedback via email to email@example.com.
Elements of the campaign included:
- Online public engagement opportunities on Let’s Talk Brantford including an online survey and comment forum
- A social media campaign that ran on the City’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms
- Two public virtual town halls held on October 19, 2021
- Stakeholder Engagement sessions with each of the DBITF sub Working Groups including Community Supports, Economic and Cultural Vitality and Safety and Security
- People with Lived Experience survey conducted by Community Services and Social Development and community services outreach staff
Recognizing that current issues in the downtown are varied and complicated, the primary objective of the survey was to identify the community’s perspectives of key priorities to inform Working Groups’ priorities, actions and recommendations that will be included in the DBITF Action Plan.
Findings of the public engagement campaign demonstrate a strong view that additional mental health and addiction supports are needed for vulnerable citizens who frequent the city’s downtown. Furthermore, people with lived experience identified the acute need for a Drop In Centre to acquire support services from one central location. Other key themes among the findings was the cause and effect connection between mental health and addiction and lack of housing among vulnerable individuals, as well as the need to develop additional motivations/reasons for people who live outside the downtown to visit this area of the city (for example, more festivals and cultural events).
Also repeated frequently in the qualitative, open ended feedback was the requirement for a community anti-stigma campaign to increase the community’s understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable citizens, and enhanced recognition of indigenous individuals, culture and heritage.
Survey Finding Highlights
Asked what single improvement could be made to improve the downtown:
- 18.7% of respondents said more focus on cleanliness/attractiveness
- 16.4% said an increased security presence
- 14.2% said more businesses
- 9.7% said more housing options
- 9.7% said more outreach/medical support agency presence
- 9.7% said more places to shop
- 5.2% said more restaurants
Given there isn’t a significant differential between proposed solutions, the data suggests that nearly each of the actions proposed can be considered priorities.
Asked what should be included in a potential safety program:
- 31.3% of respondents said increased presence of police
- 31.3% said enhanced implementation of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)
- 19.4% chose Other and specified all options should be implemented
- 9% said increased presence of security staff
- 9% said CCTV cameras
Asked what recreational activities respondents want to see more of downtown:
- 41.8% of respondents said more events/festivals (i.e. Jazz Festival)
- 20.1% said more events in Harmony Square
- 13.4% said this type of programming was not a priority
- 11.9% said cultural events (i.e. performance art)
- 3.7% said outdoor fitness programs (i.e. yoga in the park)
Stakeholder/Subject Expertise engagement workshops:
Community Supports Main Themes
- Enhanced Harm Reduction strategies
- Housing supports / wrap around services
- Improved coordination/knowledge sharing processes among agencies and organizations (i.e. community agencies)
- Drop In Centre location overseen by medical staff and support agencies
- Anti-stigma campaign so that the community has a better understanding of what vulnerable individuals are experiencing
- Standardization and better coordination across agencies to improve barrier free access to services
Economic and Cultural Vitality Main Themes
- Public Art installations
- Indigenous focused cultural events
- Waterfront development
- Pop up shops
- Modified waste collection processes to reduce frequency of garbage out on streets
Safety and Security Main Themes
- CCTV coordination and expansion
- Parkade improvements (lighting, cleanliness, security)
- Daytime Shelter – managed location where vulnerable individuals can access food and support services
- Safe walk program for students
- Bail reform advocacy to AMO, other levels of government
People with Lived Experience survey results
A survey was conducted among 32 individuals with lived experience by outreach staff.
Asked what downtown needs more of (could select more than 1 option):
- 100% of respondents said housing
- 96.15% said outreach/medical supports
- 95.83% said an indoor drop in centre/common space
- 92.31% said mental health and addiction supports
- 82.35% said green/public spaces
- 47.7% said increased security presence
- 46.7% said restaurants
An emphasis on improving housing options, enhancing outreach/medical supports and an indoor drop in centre as well as additional mental health and addiction supports were all top selections by respondents, which is consistent with the feedback shared by other key stakeholders.
A more detailed report of the findings can be accessed on the City’s website at: brantford.ca/DBITFfindings. Our thanks to all members of the public and those who participated in the stakeholder workshops for taking the time to provide your valuable and constructive input.