#Guelph Must “Cast The Net Wider” on Harm Reduction Housing Options.

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Last week, by a 12-1 vote, City Council (sitting as committee) decided to ask staff for more information on city owned land that may be eligible in allowing a proponent (not the city) to follow a planning process and help shelter the homeless in our city. This land is located in Ward 1 on Beaumont Crescent.

I cannot speak for any other member of council on their reasons or motives why they supported this vote but I will explain why I did at the time.

  1. I have always advocated to receive from our professional staff information on a number of issues, before I make any final decisions. There has been times where myself and many other members of council have requested through an official motion a desire for “more information” on a number of topics. So this request is nothing new.
  2. Receiving information is not the same as approving anything. Many times I have asked for information, received it, and done nothing further. I would hope that as a steward of your money you would want me to ask for more information before making final decisions.
  3.  There are currently people living in tents, in all seasons, in our city. This isn’t right.  I acknowledge that some are there by choice. Yet some are not. As your Mayor I believe I have both a leadership role and moral duty to try and help these citizens find hope, a sense of well-being, safety and assistance on the road to positive life change that I believe many are striving for.
  4. The evidence is clear, that housing, (a roof over someone’s head), is the key motivator for our homeless to use as a stepping stone along the housing continuum. Our city has no housing (as currently being proposed – supportive housing) like this to date. img_7973

Regardless of what I’ve stated above, upon further reflection, I voted for a motion with the right intent, but with the wrong requests. Let me explain:

  1. Taking a look at Beaumont Crescent only isn’t giving me all the information I could use to make an informed future decision. There could be other properties city wide. If we’re going to ask for details on one property, then we should ask for details on them all and how they could accommodate a development such as this. By excluding all other land options we may inadvertently being doing a disservice to the positive outcomes we’re all striving for. We need to “cast the net wider.”
  2. A development such as this will require wrap around supports and social services for those living there. The bulk delivery of  such services in and around Guelph are not implemented by us. In not recognizing or embedding the important role outside service agencies play within last weeks motion, we aren’t receiving the social and financial information that is vital to making any future decisions.
  3. I’ve taken the time to listen to many from the Beaumont Crescent neighbourhood, who feels targeted by the Committee Motion. This was never my intent when I voted for more information but I can empathize now that I’ve had conversations with both residential and business owners from this area of our city on how it has come across in this manner by excluding all other site options.

For these reasons above I cannot support the motion as passed at Committee last week and am publicly stating now that I will be looking for support at our end of the month Council meeting to amend the motion before final approval to the following:

  1. Remove “Beaumont Crescent” and replace it with “City wide Properties”.
  2. Add “that Council requests staff to seek responses from outside agencies, (such as but not limited to, the County of Wellington, Stonehenge, The Community Health Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association and others) on available capacity and resourcing to accommodate any such harm reduction housing proposals along with details on the delivery and funding required to administer the wrap around social service needs of the potential tenants.”
  3. Add “that staff report back by the beginning of Q2 2020”

I believe no one will argue that the intent and ultimate goal of helping the most vulnerable in our city is laudable and ultimately achievable. Yet if we are to move forward on this goal, we must do it with our eyes wide open, with as much information as possible, alongside real commitments from outside agencies and partners that will set up such projects that will result in the highest chances of success for those that we want to care for the most.

Thank you,

Cam Guthrie, Mayor – City of Guelph

 

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