Downtown CORE program launched to help vulnerable in Yonge-Dundas area

Jun 6, 2024 | GTA/Local News, News

Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Police Service have partnered to launch a new, year-long program to help vulnerable people access social and health services.

Starting June 5, the Downtown Community Outreach Response and Engagement (CORE) Team will support vulnerable groups, residents, and businesses in the Yonge and Dundas area.

The program is designed to help address the various needs vulnerable people may have, the city said in a news release.

Downtown CORE will be led by a specialized team of nurses and nurse practitioners, and will involve police services if necessary, the city said.

“All team members will receive training in trauma-informed practices, harm reduction approaches, and healing-centred engagement, to create environments that support holistic well-being for individuals,” the city said in a news release.

Substance issues and homelessness create many challenges, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health said in the news release.

“Situations involving unmet health needs, mental health and substance use issues, and homelessness in Downtown Toronto create significant challenges for vulnerable populations, residents, visitors, and businesses, impacting the overall sense of safety and community well-being,” de Villa said.

For Toronto resident Elizabeth Cyrus, living at the heart of Dundas Square has proven to be jarring at times due to the rampant addiction crisis.

“The scariest part of living downtown is seeing people passed out on the sidewalk and not knowing if they are sleeping or if you’re walking past dead bodies,” Cyrus said.

Toronto faces an ever-growing homeless and addiction problem, with 362 non-fatal and 25 fatal overdoses documented as of April with the majority of these overdoses occurring in the Yonge and Dundas area, reported Tableau Public.

“At Yonge and Dundas there are a lot of tourists and residents, and it can be distressing to see a person having a crisis so I can only imagine how distressing it is to be that person,” Cyrus said.

Downtown CORE hopes to create a relationship that proves mental health matters, said Chris Moise, councillor and chair of the Board of Health.

“The mental health and addiction crises in our city are not only chronic but complex, demanding immediate and innovative interventions,” Moise said. “By fostering partnerships between healthcare professionals, the business community, Toronto Police Service, and the City of Toronto, we demonstrate our shared commitment to treating these crises as health matters.”

The Downtown CORE program seeks to reduce the number of overdoses and decrease the need for emergency services, de Villa said.

With medical services and hospital rooms constantly being full, this program may help lessen the load on health service workers, Cyrus said.

“There’s such a strain on emergency room paramedics, so if they can find proactive ways to prevent overdoses and other crises it would help everyone else indirectly,” Cyrus said.

Time will tell how the year-long program goes, but residents like Cyrus are hopeful of the changes to come.

“There are so many people that need assistance, so I hope this program will actually help,” she said.