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Social agenda

THUNDER BAY -- The city is taking its social problems south in hopes of getting some provincial relief.
Mayor Keith Hobbs says the city is changing its focus at this year’s AMO conference. (Jamie Smith,

THUNDER BAY -- The city is taking its social problems south in hopes of getting some provincial relief.

The past few years have seen councillors head to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's annual conference with a focus on infrastructure and economic development. The meetings give councillors and city administration some face time with various provincial ministers when they're on the lookout for funding.

This time around mayor Keith Hobbs said the city's main priority is to get some help to tackle Thunder Bay's homelessness and substance abuse issues.

"That's going to be top of mind for us. These homicides and the homelessness have really brought this to the fore obviously," he said. "We need funding that's the bottom line."

Shelter House wants to keep its successful SOS outreach program running full-time and wants to expand its alcohol management program. Hobbs would also like to start a housing first policy to address homelessness, similar to a program in Calgary.

The problems aren't new and they aren't unique to the city, Hobbs said he remembers the local police union bringing up substance abuse issues in 1997. But Thunder Bay needs help to address the underlying social factors of violent crime.

"Nothing has changed over all those years," he said.

"I don't know that there's any mayor, prime minister or president that can ever prevent people from taking those kinds of horrific actions against other people but if we can address these root problems to crime … I think that's a good start."

Gridlock at the hospital and more long-term care beds also need to be addressed. It's going to make for some long meetings with the ministry of health.

"We need a lot more to address those issues," Hobbs said.

The province has given millions to the city in the past for projects, a good sign for Hobbs that it might help this time around.



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