Greg Rickford is a senior member of the provincial government, and he pledged their support in addressing social issues in Kenora.

"Elected officials in every forum of government will now play a more prominent role in how resources and services are now delivered in our communities," he said.

Rickford was officially invited to announce $1.2 million for the return of the bear clan patrol for a year, on a 24/7. 365 basis. He described it as a real-time response to an urgent situation.

The minister also noted the many resources available to those in need in the area.

Earlier this month Queen's Park announced another $150 million to help those during COVID-19, including help for homeless shelters, housing and foodbanks. In April, the province announced a COVID-19 action plan, including First Nations.

Last December, the province added $675,000 for a mobile medical response to the streets of Kenora.

The minister for northern development, energy and Indigenous affairs was joined by the leaders of Grand Council Treaty 3, Kenora Chiefs Advisory, City of Kenora and the OPP, as they announced additional help for the vulnerable during the pandemic.

Last fall, the All Nations Health Partners came together, in an effort to provide local decisions about how resources would best be allocated to meet local needs. The partnership is led by the Kenora Chiefs Advisory and the Kenora District Services Board. 

Along with their work on building a new district hospital, the partners are also looking at community outreach programs, which would assist mental health and addictions. A location for the new hospital is expected to be announced before the end of August, and a criteria for the location is the ability to house what could become a campus for social agencies addressing local issues.

Along with the downtown shelter and youth hub that opened last year, a remand centre is expected to open this fall, with treatment beds and housing units to follow. Land has already been cleared at the Evergreen Rink for the treatment beds, and a location for seniors housing is also expected in the near future. The district services board is hoping to add more than 100 housing units, along with the justice centre.

The city has removed some of its approval steps related to zoning and land use, in an effort to facilitate the construction of new housing. Once built, they would be the first social housing units built in more than a generation, adding another piece to the puzzle for the Streets to Homes -- or Housing First -- strategy the city has been pursuing since the loss of the Adams Block.

"It is a fact, ladies and gentlemen, that Kenora and the surrounding area are well-resourced to deliver services to homeless people and the vulnerable population, but we have a responsibility as political leaders to ensure that those resources are spent at the right time in the right places for the right and targeted populations," Rickford noted.

The minister hoped that -- even with the delays due to the pandemic -- there will be new pieces added to the Kenora community within six to 12 months, in order to help alleviate social issues in a difficult time.

For more information:

Bear Clan now on patrol 24/7

Pandemic response includes homeless, commission

Human rights commission calls on leaders to assist vulnerable