Windsor is poised to enhance its 311 service as a measure to bolster the aid rendered to its residents and businesses grappling with issues relating to homelessness. Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino, a frequent recipient of calls concerning homelessness, stated the need to simplify the process of seeking assistance. Agostino expressed that many individuals were unsure of the correct protocol in such instances.
Agostino recently received a plea for guidance from a local business on addressing the issue of individuals congregating in the alleyway behind their establishment. Thanks to the imminent upgrade to the 311 service, they, along with countless others, will have a dedicated hotline for their concerns.
Agostino envisions a streamlined, all-in-one solution to address these issues. The overhauled 311 service will efficiently handle concerns pertaining to homelessness and mental health, allowing citizens to render timely assistance to those in need. As Andrew Daher, the Commissioner for Human and Health Services for the city put it, witnessing signs of homelessness or makeshift encampments triggers a call to 311.
The upgraded service, in a collaborative venture with Family Services Windsor-Essex, also includes a mobile app through which people can connect. Executive Director Joyce Zuk is committed to ensuring that the city’s residents and businesses feel supported and can effectively address their concerns with one simple call to 311.
The primary aim of the service expansion is to help more individuals struggling with homelessness, ease the burden on local businesses and reduce pressure on the police, Agostino noted. However, the city stated that the soon-to-be-available service is a help center rather than a complaint board, and it should be used as such.
Joyce Zuk also cautioned against the perception that this initiative would provide a panacea for homelessness. Councilor Fabio Costante eloquently stated during a committee meeting that housing with support services is the ideal solution, but she acknowledged that this development is a step in the right direction.
In order to ensure accessibility, Windsor is extending the availability of the 311 service, including weekends, with outreach workers on duty until midnight, diverging from the traditional closure time of 4:30 – 5 p.m. The expansion is a result of insights gathered from data collected by the Nurse-Police team of the Windsor Police Service. As Joyce Zuk opined, the extended hours will facilitate connection with those in need beyond the conventional working day.