What do you see as the most pressing social issue (aside from healthcare) in Airdrie and how would you address it?

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Social issues have a direct correlation to a lack of good mental health. I believe the biggest issue is feeding people. The Airdrie Food Bank has seen a significant jump in hampers over the past few years.

The last thing a person under duress needs is to be hungry; good life decisions are a lot easier on a full stomach. The best days start with a great meal. I’d like to see all of us take a more active and involved role in bringing those in need to a better place where they can move towards better life decisions.

Domestic violence can affect any age, gender or socio-economic status. It has been known to occur over generations, within families and that makes it an important issue. While financial factors contribute to the problem, many abusers were either abused themselves as children or witnessed abuse between family members.

To break this cycle and reduce domestic violence, we have to implement programs that are effective and help offenders get the information and skills to prevent the next generation of domestic violence. Additionally, Airdrie needs a shelter for the victims of abuse, whether they are male or female.

Domestic violence is the most pressing issue in Airdrie. There are reactive and proactive ways to address it. The reactive way would be to create a shelter program with resources to help those being affected. We need shelters for women, children and men, and the right resources within Airdrie.

A proactive way would be to reduce financial/social burdens families are facing; reduce their expenses through smart laws protecting them from greedy corporations. Create entertainment for families/friends to bond. Life’s not only about work and paying bills; cost of living is on the rise and plays a factor in domestic disputes.

Mental health is the biggest social issue facing us. The education, awareness, counselling and community programs that could be helped from the bottom up need assistance with funding and public awareness in our community.

We need to find ways to get rid of the stigma attached to the word. Yes, it includes depression, anxiety and actual disorders but it starts with true mental wellness of the people around us who struggle with day-to-day issues. It can lead to isolation, anger, frustration and the need to turn to things that are unnecessary. There are small things that can make a big difference.

I have been on the Airdrie Housing Board for the last four years and understand the need we have for more affordable units. When we were given the old RCMP land, we had a very sustainable plan that included North Rocky View Community Links as a tenant. When they withdrew from the project, the board had to restart our planning and have come up with some very innovative ideas.

We have a lot of vacant private apartment units in the city and it would be beneficial to all if we could take advantage of some of these for affordable housing.

There is a recognized disregard for safety in communities, school zones and crosswalks in Airdrie. Our local RCMP can only do so much for curbing chronic speeders.

I propose we look at bringing in third party photo radar, much like Canmore has been doing since 2014. They have worded their bylaw so they get a percentage of fine revenue towards community safety programs, which ties into the educational safety campaign I want delivered to schools about crossing the streets, proper bike use, train rail safety and whatever else we feel is relevant for local childrens’ safety.

Being a father of five kids, I see the most pressing social need in Airdrie (outside of a hospital) is a west side recreation centre. We utilize Genesis Place Recreation Centre regularly and love what it offers to our city but it’s definitely time for a second recreation centre, with expanded programs, on the west side of town.

Several Airdrie families, like everywhere in the province, have faced difficult times lately. When one or both parents lose a job because of the economy, the family is set for tough moments.

Based on the Alberta Social Policy Framework, local government must ” promote social well-being and facilitate collaboration in their communities.” If I am elected, my focus will be to facilitate and influence the support or the creation of any organizations we need to help people face the challenges that life has thrown at them. Your quality of life is my priority.

I would say one of the most pressing issues is having access to recreation facilities. We need more space for our current population as well as a plan for future growth. We need more space for the community to gather and enjoy.

I would like to organize a committee to oversee the project. From funding to planning and building, having a dedicated project team would help keep timelines and budgets in order.

We need to take a serious look at mental health as well as affordable housing. Council needs to put pressure on the provincial government for more staffing for mental health in Airdrie. I have heard from some seniors that Airdrie currently does not have anyone and with our growing population the need is now more than ever.

With regards to affordable housing, we need to work with other agencies to speed up the process and find ways where the city can support their efforts to get funding and ensure we do not create any barriers for them.

As a city, we are fortunate to partner with our non-profit social service agencies to address the social needs of our citizens. The economy has put extra pressure on many to meet even their most basic needs.

Community services recently received a consultant report that in comparison to other Alberta communities we are lacking in the ability to provide for affordable housing for our most vulnerable, including the invisible poor, those working, but still earning below the poverty line.

While emergency shelters are also needed, we must focus on making affordable housing sustainable to keep our community healthy.

The conversation about domestic violence has to be out in the open so those who are in it can come forward. I believe we must advocate for all levels of government to step up with proper resourcing.

A shelter is step one. Local agencies need more resources to help rebuild lives and families. It must no longer be hidden and only come to light when emergency lights are flashing. I have had involvement in two incidents in the last three months. Home should not be a place where you run from, but rather a place of refuge and safety.

Our current mayor, as well as former Mayor Dan Oneil, with support from the Airdrie Food Bank board, facilitated the opening of our current building, mortgage free. They raised money by approaching corporate partners for funds to build the building. Our food bank no longer has to pay rent, and all Family and Community Support Services funding they receive now goes directly to programs.

I’d like to see the same done for North Rocky View Community Links, Boys and Girls Club, domestic violence crisis centre and Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society. By removing the hardship of rent, we provide sustainability.

It is difficult to focus on one social issue, however affordable housing can be considered pressing in our community. Whether it’s an individual fleeing domestic violence, a family fallen on difficult times or a senior facing the rising cost of living, affordable housing can be a barrier to them getting the help and independence they need.

We can address this particular issue by coming up with a solid support structure for Airdrie Housing Limited and exploring where the gaps are in our community, through the work currently being done with the Housing Needs Assessment, then implementing and executing a strategy.

The most pressing social issue in Airdrie is domestic violence and the urgent need for emergency shelters and other forms of support for individuals and families who are victims. Several reports have indicated the rate of domestic violence in our city is close to four times higher than the provincial average.

Since publication of the last formal report, the City of Airdrie has developed a three-year plan to address the crisis. While that plan unfolds, it is crucial we move to introduce some of the most basic responses in our bid to support victims – a designated shelter and counselling support.

The social issue in Airdrie requiring the most immediate attention is the lack of a women’s shelter. The city’s own reports highlighted the levels of domestic abuse in Airdrie earlier this year and no visible progress has been made.

If elected, I will work for a concrete proposal to have a functioning shelter in Airdrie as soon as possible.

Our social issues in Airdrie are numerous because we have been taking a reactive approach to situations as they arise, instead of looking at our city proactively. Things like facility development, arts and culture, traffic safety, recreation, community engagement, low-income housing and emergency safe houses for youth and vulnerable citizens are just a few examples.

I plan on working with community development, community organizations and our city planner to ensure we are looking ahead for our needs. We need to ensure our citizens feel safe, included and engaged with their community.

I believe the most pressing matter for Airdrie, besides healthcare, is the need for a women’s shelter. In Airdrie, there are a high number of domestic abuse cases within the community. So much so we are one of the communities that have a higher rate of cases.

It is therefore clear that we need a women’s shelter. I believe, however, this space will need special consideration because it should not be visible to the public eye. We will need land and funding to make this goal achievable. I would personally advocate for a women’s shelter in Airdrie.

With the economy in a slump and many people losing their businesses or looking for work/a source of income after a layoff or illness, poverty is a contributing factor to a multitude of other social issues. These include crime (particularly thefts), domestic violence, homelessness and psychological stress, which can lead to mental and physical health problems.

Addressing it is complex, and something the city will have to work with various community groups to do. Some solutions include: low-income housing, women’s shelter, improved access to mental health services and finding ways to support existing businesses through city contracts or other services.

Question was sent to all candidates for whom the Airdrie City View has contact information, however, not all responded by press time.

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