THUNDER BAY — Community responses to Thunder Bay’s homelessness and addictions crises were front and centre as the City of Thunder Bay handed out its 12th annual Mayor’s Community Safety Awards on Monday.
This year’s awards, announced at a city council meeting Monday evening, put a spotlight on peer support work, honouring initiatives supporting youth and those dealing with grief and loss, addiction, and poverty.
Team DEK, a grassroots group advocating for addiction supports and battling stigma, was honoured with one of four Outstanding Community Project awards, each of which comes with $1,000 in support courtesy of corporate sponsors.
The group, founded by Carolyn Karle in honour of her daughter Dayna and now known as the DEK Foundation, has brought together those living with addiction, affected family, and concerned citizens to advocate for increased resources and support existing efforts, like preparing lunches for street outreach teams.
Elevate NWO received an Outstanding Community Project award for its leading role in supporting those living without permanent shelter in the city.
The agency has provided regular street outreach through its unsheltered homelessness pilot project, offering supplies including tents and food — work it says has been effective in connecting people with other supports including housing.
Elevate has also emphasized the importance of peer support in the project, hiring workers with lived experience of homelessness.
A Hospice Northwest initiative that gathered personal images representing grief from across the community for an exhibit, known as A Personal Lens on Grief, also received an Outstanding Community Project Award.
The Niizhaayek Alliance, a non-profit led by and for 2SLGBTQ+ Indigiqueer youth, also received an Outstanding Community Project nod.
The group was recognized for hosting workshops, sharing circles, and a planned annual Ontario-wide 2SLGBTQ+ youth gathering, as well as its podcast series, The In-Between People.
In the first of two individual prizes, Tisha Duncan received a Young Leader Award for her work with the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC).
Duncan has helped organize youth-led activities like Girl Power and Band of Brothers day camps for kids in high-risk neighbourhoods, and assisted with the RMYC’s after-school and tutoring programs.
Bryan Tucker, meanwhile, received a Community Hero Award for his work founding a weekly addiction support group for incarcerated men.
Tucker, a sergeant with the Thunder Bay District Jail, has shared his own experiences with mental health, addictions, and recovery.
“I think it’s important to create awareness and empower others to have the courage to speak up, because I know a lot of people suffer in silence,” he said in video message played at city hall Monday. “I’m hopefully advocating for people to… reach out to get help.”
The awards were presented by acting mayor Albert Aiello on Monday, serving in the role due to Bill Mauro’s early departure. Ken Boshcoff, elected mayor in the Oct. 24 election, officially takes office Tuesday.
“As a member of city council, I see a lot of great work happening in our community, and the individuals and organizations being recognized this evening are truly inspiring,” he said Monday. “They’ve dedicated their time, their expertise, and hearts to helping others reach their full potential.”