Blog 1st October 20
Meeting with community associations, residents, political representatives and youth workers in Mount Zion House last night was a great experience for a number of reasons. We where there as part of the planning stage to develop a community safety plan that can be brought forward through the Community Safety Engagement Forum.
We asked participants to identify the key issues that are relevant to the neighborhoods of North Lurgan and Drumgask. The list of priorities grew quickly, Drugs, legal and prescriptive, Anti Social Behaviour, Mental Health Issues, crime targeted at the elderly, Alcohol issues and fire setting.
This is when it became really interesting.
We started to ask, who has responsibility when dealing with the drug issues that are in the community. The first response was the community has a large responsibility. This was a statement of ownership of the problem and one while looking through a restorative lens was most welcome. Of-course the police was also identified as having major responsibilities to the community in terms of the more difficult criminal issues associated with the drugs issue. The community understands that relationships here are key.
Ownership of the problem is a must when we ask the next question around solutions?
Policing solutions were standard and obvious, seizure and arrests of the major players within this deadly trade. For the community solutions, it was support for policing, education of our young, support for families and seeing addiction as people who need help. There was an air of reality in the room that said that those present understood the issues that were happening in and too the communities they were representing. There was no knee jerking, blame or anger, rather there was people who wanted to examine the issues in the cold light of day.
We have now agreed to work our way through each of the issues looking at responsibilities, community solutions, working with relevant statutory agencies and forward planning to examine contingency plans going forward. This last idea is also a good sign as community reps are demonstrating their commitment to looking past the now and planning for the future.
Mental Health was also identified as a huge issue within communities, an issue that has only been added to by the Covid-19 crisis. There are many associated issues around mental health and there are plans afoot through a Health and Wellbeing Project that is currently surveying these communities in terms of that issue. The C. S. E. Forum looks forward to deepening our relationship with those bringing this piece of work forward on mental health. This is such a broad issue that spans the generations; a multi agency working approach is vital.
So as we left the meeting last night I could see that the mood was good, people want to make a difference, people want something better for their communities, if this is at the beginning of our work then we should all be uplifted as we go forward together. People can and really do make a difference.