Downtown Business Train to De-escalate Confrontations

Street-front businesses sometimes encounter people showing agitated or aggressive behaviour, which can be quite alarming

Downtown Business Train to De-escalate Confrontations

TORONTO, Ont. – Street-front businesses in Downtown Yonge participated recently in a new “Supporting People On The Streets” (SPOTS) program, receiving training on how to de-escalate a confrontation on their properties. Police, social workers and a person with lived experience of homelessness helped equip members of the Downtown Yonge BIA (DYBIA) to identify and defuse potentially disruptive situations.

“Street-front businesses sometimes encounter people showing agitated or aggressive behaviour, which can be quite alarming,” says DYBIA Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director Mark Garner. “The SPOTS training focuses on understanding issues that someone who is homeless may be facing and on developing a compassionate, calm approach and effective skills for resolving difficult situations.”

The program is part of a larger partnership between the Toronto Drop-In Network (TDIN) and DYBIA, supported by Access, Equity and Human Rights funding from the City of Toronto.

Approaches taught in the SPOTS program include becoming aware of one’s own experience, listening with respect, offering support as determined by the person who is street involved and being aware of services and supports that can help.

“We are always looking for community-based solutions to neighbourhood concerns. Personal engagement often helps break down the anonymity of being on the street, which in turn lowers the potential for conflict,” Garner explains.

This most recent session hosted participants from about 20 companies and organizations. Downtown Yonge’s involvement in the SPOTS program is the latest in a series of initiatives to create a clean, safe and welcoming neighbourhood. Living Yonge, the BIA’s five-year strategic plan, includes several measures to improve crime prevention and empower members with tools to better connect at street level.