by Tarah Hodgkinson
We have written extensively on this blog, and elsewhere about the importance of the “third place”. In Ray Oldenburg’s work The Great Good Place, Oldenburg discusses the importance of the third place: Third places are spaces other than home (first place) and work (second place) where folks can meet, gather, connect and build social cohesion. He names several types of third places including cafes, hair salons, barbershops, pubs, libraries, bookshops and more that are at the heart of any great community. These are spaces that people can spend lots of unstructured time in without having to spend much money.
In the wake of COVID-19 many of these local places are starting to disappear. Unable to keep up with the rising costs of rolling lockdowns and having to restrict the number of patrons, many of these establishments have either limited the time you can spend in them or been shuttered altogether. This has led to several issues including vacant storefronts, reducing foot traffic and eyes on the street, and increasing monopolies of these spaces by large corporations that are less interested in creating a space for their neighbours and building community cohesion.
We know that social cohesion relies on third places to bring together people together. We also know that a lack of these places, can reduce social cohesion and increase risks of crime. Never has that been a more prominent issue, than during a pandemic when we are literally more separated than ever before.
However, there are some shining rays of hope in neighbourhoods around the globe. In Brisbane, Australia for example, a small café called the Red Bowler, feels exactly like a third place. Here, the café is not only a place to grab a coffee and a bite to eat, but the staff also know the locals, regulars sit down at comfy couches near you to strike up a conversation and the owners hold weekly events including movie nights, live music, and even mobile dog washes. No one is rushed out and as a result, the community builds.
This is just one example of a commitment to create places that are neutral, inclusive and a home away from home. As we continue to emerge from the seemingly endless impact of COVID-19 on our everyday lives, it is more important than ever that we revive and support these third places. They are the neighbourhood cornerstones of connection that will help us to not only recover but thrive again as communities.
by Mateja Mihinjac
A year ago, at the surge of the COVID pandemic in Europe, we wrote about the importance of staying socially connected at times of "social distancing" and about building personal resilience during this global traumatic event, especially that of children and youth.
During lockdowns, some children and youth sought social connection with their peers despite the imposed restrictions. Others expressed their dissatisfaction by demonstrating against school closures, damaging public property and public messaging through graffiti tagging. Yet others isolated themselves from others and confined themselves to their four walls.
A YEAR LATER…
A year into the pandemic, I have been following with sadness the news about the growing numbers of mental health issues in youth and children due to the pandemic and major disruptions to their lives during lockdowns and restrictions to their daily routines.
In France, mental health hospitalizations of youth under 15 have gone up 80% during the pandemic. In NYC suicidal children spend days waiting to be hospitalized.
In Slovenia, for the first time ever, the demand for hospital beds reserved for children and youth requiring mental health care has exceeded the capacity and now the hospital only admits children who are suicidal.
These are not isolated stories. The effects of these stressors endure and lead to neuropsychiatric challenges in adulthood as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yet, while many adults and parents may be struggling to gain some sense of normalcy themselves, we all need to support our children and youth with the smooth transition to the lives outside of their four walls and computer screens.
What can be done?
Humans dislike sudden changes to their routines and, while very adaptable, children struggle from sudden alterations to their routines more than adults.
To help children and youth, psychologists Phillips and Ehrenreich-May suggest that home and school need to permit slow adjustment to more active and interactive lives. For children who may require more handholding during this transition, they suggest open conversations, more patience, and help with scheduling the new routines of young people.
Others emphasise school and home settings and, in the spirit of SafeGrowth, I believe we should include local neighbourhoods and neighbourhood organisations where children and youth spend most of their time. Here are some simple tips:
Even if we can’t do everything, we can all do something! It takes a village to raise a child. Why not make our villages more children and youth-friendly, especially during these difficult times? Why not use all our neighbourhood resources and organizations to help them build their personal resilience?
This is our vision for a youth-friendly SafeGrowth city in the post-COVID times.
GUEST BLOG - Lilit Houlder is an urban planner working with a consulting firm in Edmonton, Canada. She is the most recent member of the SafeGrowth team and in this blog she describes her observations of the urban homeless in the middle of a global pandemic – a situation far too common across the developed world.
Edmonton has the largest number of unsheltered homeless people living within a Canadian city - approximately 1,070 persons.
While there are many support services, there are not enough beds or shelter spaces. This poses a problem for Edmonton, which is a place also known as a winter city. With temperatures dropping significantly below freezing during its long winter season, the city has an emergency plan.
For temperatures below -30 Celsius, the city’s Sector Emergency Response program gets activated to provide free public transportation, essential services, security, and a place to sleep. The city encourages citizens to keep an eye out for anyone in distress during the extreme cold and contact the city response team. The program consists of 25 partner organizations that communicate with each other and share resources. Partnerships such as this strengthen the municipal capacity to address an intractable urban problem.
The city mustered money with support from provincial and federal governments to purchase and repurpose underutilized hotels and to run 24/7 shelters. All necessary supports are given in one place, and people can socially distance themselves to avoid the spread of COVID. This is similar to British Columbia’s legislation last year to use motels for the homeless, as reported in Jon Munn’s blog.
Purchasing and repurposing hotels is an initiative created by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to adopt more non-profit housing for homeless Canadians. Edmonton purchases hotels that would otherwise operate at extremely low capacities and become a financial burden on the landowners.
Some cities like Portland are creating temporary community support shelters, such as those reported by Tod Schneider. But with Edmonton’s much colder weather, another approach emerged that is showing up in cities across North America - repurposing civic facilities.
The city turned the Shaw Conference Center into a 24/7 shelter that offered space for socializing, COVID testing, treating basic medical and mental health needs, and connecting to other support services. What made this venue different is that it was large enough to provide users space for self-isolation if showing symptoms of COVID. Smaller spaces, such as local churches or community halls or community support shelters would not have had sufficient space to accommodate this unique challenge.
2ND GENERATION CPTED
Although deployed across an entire city versus a single neighbourhood, each of the municipal strategies underway in Edmonton emphasize the power of 2nd Generation CPTED principles as a way to respond to municipal social problems.
For example, connectivity tactics included linking to upper-level governments for resources and funding. Finding a civic space with enough capacity to house such a large population is, by definition, the very heart of the connectivity principle. It was the same for connections with the 25 organizations in the Sector Emergency Response program – they had the ability to bring food, health, financial support, clothing, and other resources to alleviate the suffering of people with no place to sleep.
Another example - By educating people about the needs of the homeless during the coldest time of the year, citizens across the entire city participated in watching for vulnerable people during extreme weather. Social cohesion at such a large scale in Edmonton illustrates that, when integrated into part of urban culture, citizens who are organized to work together on a common purpose can go a long way to making life safer for the most vulnerable.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
Around this time last year, I wrote a blog about self-care and new year’s resolutions. I suggested that the best self-care we could engage in, was to take care of others. Through connection and social engagement, we not only are happier and healthier, but we even live longer.
This year, such a suggestion may seem out of touch with reality. The second wave of COVID-19 is well underway in many North American and European neighbourhoods and many places are, once again, increasing social distancing restrictions and locking down. While the promise of the vaccine is on the horizon, most people are preparing for a quiet holiday season that doesn’t involve much social interaction.
These steps are necessary to keep people safe until the vaccine is easily accessible and widely distributed. However, it is hard not to feel a bit distraught at the thought of spending the holidays separated from family and friends.
While we often think about how this pandemic has affected our personal lives, this time of year encourages us to think outwards. For many, the holidays are a time to volunteer and give back. But, COVID-19 has changed this as well.
This was made clear to me when I reached out to a local homelessness charity to donate some clothing and other necessities. Although grateful for any support, the charity has been unable to accept any physical donations in months. The pandemic has made it impossible for them to pass along these donations safely and in keeping with the restrictions.
Furthermore, many of the ways in which these charities have supported their clients in the past, from offering clothing and supplies, to providing crisis housing has changed. All of this work requires additional personal protective equipment and financial support for food and shelter costs.
Most donation drives and volunteer supports have been reduced or eliminated due to restrictions on what can be accepted and how many people can be in a space. For example, Signal Fire, a well-known homeless charity here in Brisbane, has had to shut down or scale back their barbecues. These barbecues not only provide much-needed food and supplies to their clients, but also a chance for social interaction, support, and connection.
While the pandemic has affected all of us, this has been more dramatic than ever for society’s “underclass.” Beyond basic necessities, we also need connection and interaction to stay healthy and happy. For our most vulnerable, these opportunities are all but gone.
As the pandemic persists, those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home, support ourselves and see our friends and family over skype and zoom, may also want to take this opportunity to redirect what we would have spent on big holiday dinners and presents for our extended family and donate that money to a local shelter or charity. These services need financial support to continue their missions and connect with their clients. That connection has never been more important than it is now.