Keeping OCH neighbourhoods safe during the pandemic
Marino Sani, Manager of Community and Safety Services, says that even though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the environment, it has been pretty much business as usual for Community Safety Workers, with a more cautious approach.
“They have had to alter some elements of their work, but the core of what they do remains the same,” he said.
The CSW team, comprised of 18 full-time staff, twelve part-time staff and two soon to be Operations Managers, is often the first point of contact for tenants.
They proactively and reactively patrol OCH communities to ensure everyone is staying safe.
On a typical shift, they can handle as many as 80 to 100 calls as a team – which includes everything from handing out important tenant notices, checking on noise complaints, to more serious safety issues, acting as liaison for the City of Ottawa’s First Responders.
“While the number of calls hasn’t changed, the type has,” Marino said. “We are doing more proactive patrols and working closely with community partners and the Ottawa Police Service.”
He said one of the benefits of enhanced collaboration with City Emergency Services staff, has been an expanded partnership with Ottawa police. Certain kinds of crimes have gone down since the pandemic, which frees up police to do proactive patrolling and allows them to be more responsive to assist with issues affecting Ottawa Community Housing issues.
There have been challenges since the beginning of the pandemic since the recommendations to wear personal protection equipment like face masks have changed. Physical distancing also means Community Safety Workers are not able to touch base with at-risk tenants in the same way. Under normal circumstances, they would pop into lounges and perhaps confirm their well-being by sharing a quick game of pool. While they are respecting social distancing, they are still available and respond, when tenants need it most.
“There are other changes too, such as the meetings at shift start, and having lunch together. Those things cannot happen right now, but there will be opportunities to maintain camaraderie, by being creative with meetings” Marino said.
WHO TO CALL WHEN?
Marino said tenants are more prone to call OCH Community Safety Services because they are comfortable, but in certain situations where you are concerned for your immediate safety, or a crime in progress it’s important to call 9-1-1. Other things, like noise complaints, or social services requests can be dealt with by calling the City of Ottawa Bylaw services, or 3-1-1.