We’ve all heard the saying that there is a time and a place for everything. Seems that holds true for viruses too, in this case COVID-19. I think we could all agree that we are now living in unprecedented times. Is it time to rethink our position on many things that we likely took for granted prior to this pandemic? I think so!
Our team has continued working in the background, in isolation of course. I’ve heard from our various consultants across the country, and with various clients we’ve continued to stay in touch (via email or phone) with through these challenging times. During a call this week, and an email from my friend and colleague Pam Moore she stated “It seems to me that fear of safety has now been expanded to include fear of disease. Our country is not use to this invisible threat and it’s asking all of us to think beyond self and family.” She went on to suggest that “thinking beyond self is really trusting that the social connections we have built will be strong. It has very little to do with the built environment that surrounds us as we are limited to our exploration of the outside realm until the pandemic crisis is over. What this new world does point out to us is the importance of connection at multiple levels.”
I often point out during my lectures and workshops that we’re all about People – Place – Connection. That not only gives everyone a snapshot of what our business is all about, it’s what all our lives depend on each and every day. In Victoria, BC it’s not business as usual! It seems nobody is immune to COVID-19, with our country, and the entire world battling this virus. One of the best practices that makes up our full SPECTRUM approach to Community Safety and Well-Being is known as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). There are two 2nd Generation principles of CPTED that are extremely relevant during this pandemic – Social Cohesion and Connectivity.
A socially-cohesive community is one where residents and visitors participate in community life, have a sense of responsibility and decision-making within their neighbourhood, and seek methods of conflict resolution. The physical environment generally supports these interpersonal dynamics by considering how people use and experience a space and participate in activities together. This has become extremely challenging for all of us under the current conditions. Once our freedom to move about and engage with each other and our physical spaces is restricted, many of us feel lost – disconnected! Environments designed to accommodate community gardens, festivals, public art, music and placemaking projects provide the means for neighbours to build relationships within the local and broader community.
Communities do not exist in a vacuum, and yet it seems like most of us are currently trapped in one – at least for the time being. Connectivity helps to address the ability of communities to create relationships with external support networks, ultimately strengthening the options available to solve local problems and influence municipal planning and development-related decisions. It can also include physical infrastructure such as access to community spaces, walking and bike pathways, transit and green spaces. Needless to say, both of these principles are really being strained right now. As Brene Brown, a professor and writer points out “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued – when they can give and receive without judgement.”
Our homeless population and people that have been traumatized are really feeling this strain under the current circumstances. They are in fact, some of our most vulnerable and their risk-levels as a result of COVID-19 are very real. In a recent podcast with Russell Brand, Dr. Gabor Mate talked about “the more fear oriented people are, the more likely they are to panic.” This is a trauma response! How do we go about improving this response? Russell suggests that this could be “a great opportunity for reordering, and to live more harmoniously and connected to nature.” Is this pandemic a teaching moment for our civilization? Listen to the entire podcast here – Wisdom in the time of COVID-19
In my friend Gene Miller’s recent FOCUS magazine feature titled “Gimme Shelter” he states that “scenes of homelessness challenge any illusion that our city (Victoria, BC) is well-ordered.” With most of us in isolation these scenes seem even more pronounced, with two local parks recently being designated for tents and various supports being put in place. Gene concludes his piece by suggesting that “it’s time for a movement, a new activist programme, a new blueprint for community, to reconnect the city to – to re-express the city as – the all of us.” Seems like great advice, and it seems that we’ve got plenty of time to mull it over during this crisis. Is this a wakeup call?
Stay safe, and healthy.