Guelph Mayor: Designated Tiny Homes Encampment Should Be Considered
Several municipalities have established specific zones for homeless camps as the issue of housing affordability continues to escalate. Is this a step Guelph should consider?
Mayor Cam Guthrie is receptive to exploring the concept.
“I want to help people with a proper home, especially for the elements … especially for winter,” stated Guthrie, emphasizing that he is currently in the information-gathering stage and not necessarily advocating for the proposal. “I need information.”
In a special housing-focused meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the council unanimously advocated for the evaluation of a designated, temporary encampment area with built structures at an upcoming housing symposium. This event is organized by the County of Wellington, which oversees social housing initiatives for the city.
Guthrie specified that he is not in favor of a cluster of reinforced tents, but rather envisions tiny homes supplemented with trailer-provided bathrooms and communal kitchens.
The implementation of such a plan would depend on the availability of comprehensive services for the residents, he added.
Scheduled tentatively for January, the county’s symposium will include a diverse group of community stakeholders, ranging from social service providers and government representatives to housing developers.
Last year, Guelph had 10 identified encampments scattered across the city. As of this Monday, that number has risen to 20.
“The count has doubled in a year,” Guthrie observed. “I believe a structured encampment site would be more effective than random tent placements throughout the city.”
Guthrie finds the concept of a tiny homes encampment appealing for several reasons, including its potential for rapid deployment to assist those in immediate need.
Consolidating 20 sites into one centralized location would also enable service providers, law enforcement, and emergency responders to concentrate their efforts more effectively.
“I don’t naively think that establishing a structured encampment would instantly eliminate all other sites, but I’m confident it would significantly reduce them,” he commented, suggesting that people would likely opt for a solid structure over a tent, particularly if amenities like bathrooms and kitchens are included.
“The economic challenges and other factors are forcing people to ‘live rough,’” Guthrie noted.
He compared the cost of the ongoing temporary supportive housing project at 65 Delhi St., which is estimated at $7.5 to $8 million for 28 units, to the projected $1 million cost for 50 tiny homes.
Guthrie acknowledged that there is still much to learn about the feasibility and need for a tiny homes encampment. If the idea gains political support, the next issue to address will be the location for such a site.
He suggested that either a private landowner might offer a suitable location, or the encampment could be situated on city-owned land.