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Cambridge councillor pulls motion to help Sanguen’s mobile health services

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A Cambridge councillor has withdrawn a motion asking the city to find a solution in a parking dispute that prevented a community health van from setting up outside the Bridges shelter.

Sanguen has been parking the vehicle on Market Street, near the shelter, since 2017. It provides medical care, food and harm reduction supplies to vulnerable members of our community.

They stopped parking near the shelter after the city cited safety concerns and prompted Councillor Scott Hamilton’s motion to help Sanguen find a solution.

Had he not withdrawn it would have been voted on by Cambridge next week.

“I was told very quickly that homelessness, addictions, mental health issues, those are under the jurisdictional purview of the Region of Waterloo,” Hamilton told CTV News.

He’s pleased that his motion has sparked conversation but admits there’s nothing else he can do because the issue is now in the region’s hands.

“I'm hopeful that this issue is resolved as soon as possible and that these mobile health service providers can access the core… because we know there are residents out there that are in dire need of help that, right now, are not getting it,” Hamilton added.

Sanguen reacts

Julie Kalbfleisch, from Sanguen Health Centre, supports Hamilton’s decision to repeal the motion and appreciates his efforts to resolve the situation.

In a statement on Sanguen’s website, the organization said: “The City of Cambridge’s lack of accountability on this issue suggests a lack of support for the services that are provided to the homeless population. Otherwise, we believe the parking issue could have been collaboratively resolved, as it has been at other stops in both Cambridge and across the region when issues have arisen.”

Kalbfleisch believes more could have been done on the city’s part.

“I think the thing that was missing is that there was no attempt or willingness to help us find a solution,” she said.

Hamilton hopes the city is listening.

“It doesn't make me feel great if a service provider that does great work is saying we need to step it up.

If that's the case, we need to listen to them, think critically and do whatever we can to improve,” he said.

Kalbfleisch calls the work Sanguen does, in terms of community outreach, imperative.

“We're talking about folks who have often experienced isolation or disconnection, but still are suffering with very complex health issues that require attention,” she said.

While the van will no longer be parked near the Bridges – it will still be out in the community.

“We are continuing to provide service to Cambridge at two other locations – the food bank location and then a new location that we've just started in the last month or so in Preston,” Kalbfleisch explained.

City of Cambridge responds

According to the City of Cambridge, it has met with Sanguen to discuss their concerns and options.

“[The city] has encouraged Sanguen to explore options for parking that is in compliance with city bylaws and creates a safe environment for their clients,” a statement, from a Cambridge spokesperson, said in part.

They added that the city does not have jurisdiction over the operation of the community health van but claims they were receiving ongoing complaints that the van was visually blocking drivers.

“This, combined with a high volume of foot traffic from clients to the van, creates a major safety concern for everyone in this area,” the statement went on to say. “As well, should there be an emergency requiring emergency vehicle access, the van would impede the ability for emergency vehicles to respond to this area.”

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