Cambridge residents share safety concerns at community town hall, second town hall set for Sept. 18

Cambridge residents had the opportunity to speak directly with city council and staff at a community safety town hall on Thursday.

Inside Cambridge City Hall, crime and housing dominated the discussion. Specifically, residents asked questions and shared stories about living near the homeless encampment on 150 Main Street.

“The immediate community around 150 Main is suffering,” said Paul, a resident who lives nearby. “I’ve seen the neighbourhood activity dwindle to nothing. Children no longer walk past my house going to school, families no longer go out walking their dogs. I don’t see any community activity in my community anymore, and I miss it. What I do see is a whole lot of violent crime.”

Cambridge Mayor Jan Liggett notes the city is limited in what it can do, as housing, policing, and health care are all run by the region.

“We can’t tell the police what to do, we can’t say anything about mental health or public health, that’s not our role,” Liggett said.

Regional Councillor Doug Craig says police have responded to the site 160 times in the first five months of the year.

One individual named Kyle shared that he previously lived on 150 Main Street, which is owned by the region. He now lives at the region-run shelter on Erbs Road in Waterloo and said it has been a success.

“We’re growing a community, I don’t know about the criminal aspect around Erbs [Road], but I would say it’s very minimal,” Kyle said. “I think a sanctioned encampment here in Cambridge would work wonders, I really do.”

Other residents asked about the possibility of bringing an encampment like the one on Erbs Road to Cambridge. Liggett said that won’t happen until the two-year pilot project for the region-run shelter is complete.

“I can’t say yes or no. It could turn out that it’s decided as in other communities that they aren’t the way to go and maybe something else will come along in the meantime that will also be a pilot project, I don’t know,” Liggett said. “As it sits, they seem to be working well, so I’m not being negative about it, I’m just saying I don’t know yet.”

Throughout the town hall, some positives emerged regarding community safety. City staff said that the addition of new by-law officers had been a help.

Additionally, councillors agreed with a resident that the city should continue to provide opportunities for youth to keep them busy.

“I think that’s the kind of upstream thinking we need to have in place. If we have our kids actively involved in things that are positive, we’re going to prevent some of these things down the road,” said Ward 5 Councillor Sheri Roberts.

A second town hall will take place Sept. 18. Cambridge Mayor Jan Liggett confirming to CityNews Kitchener in an interview Friday morning. That meeting will include Regional officials as well as Waterloo Regional Police.

“The date will be Sept. 18th,” said Cambridge Mayor Jan Liggett. “We will have our regional partners there and Waterloo Regional Police Services partners at the table. They will be hearing what people have to say as well as what’s been coming through the past few years. They will talk about what can be done to solve some of these problems. That’s the role that we play in this, we can’t take action on those things but they can take action. We are the conduits between our residents and those upper levels of government and services. I can’t tell the police what to do, I can’t tell them how to do things operational. The only thing I can do is vote on the budget that they ask.”

Liggett said that the second town hall will be interesting to hear what comes out of it knowing that regional officials will be part of it.

“I supported the budget this spring because I knew the extra officers were needed, I still believe the extra officers are needed. So, let’s see where they go from here and what they do from the ones that they hired whether we see a difference in our community because there’s no sense in spending the money if they aren’t making a difference.”

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