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Task force develops recommendations on homelessness, addiction, mental health

by Patrick Raftis

GUELPH - A task force on homelessness and community safety has compiled a list of five recommendations, with a total cost of just under $6.2 million.

The goal is to tackle emerging issues and root causes around homelessness, addiction and mental health issues in Guelph and Wellington County.

In a staff report presented at the Feb. 28 meeting, Wellington County councillors received an update on task force activities from county director of housing Ryan Pettipiere.

The report explains the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and Community Safety originated in January when  Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie convened a group of over 30 community leaders and agencies to take action on the issue of homelessness in Guelph and the related issues of addiction, mental health and community safety.

Wellington County Warden Kelly Linton co-chairs the task force along with Guthrie.

“The intent of the task force is to support and amplify work that is already being done and intended to complement the action strategies and overall objectives of the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan hosted by the County of Wellington,” noted Pettipiere in the report.

Social services committee chair councillor David Anderson said, “They’re recognizing the issues of homelessness; they’re trying to find resolutions. It’s dealing with the issue, and what we need to do to get it done.”

The mandate of the task force is to identify key priorities for action and investment to address both emergent needs and the root causes of homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, and their links to community safety.

Through two meetings to date, the group has received presentations on the current state of homelessness from Wellington County and Poverty Task Force staff as well as the current state of addiction challenges from staff at the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy.

At the second meeting the following five recommendations were put forward for future action, totaling about $6.17 million:

- opening a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week gathering place where people can warm up from the winter cold or cool off from the summer heat and connect with other resources (cost currently unknown);

- reopening a supported recovery room, where people can recover and sleep as they are coming off of substance use (estimated operational cost of $670,000 annually);

- addictions support worker for the city’s courthouse (estimated cost $100,000 annually};

- sustained funding for the Downtown Welcoming Streets pilot project, which bridged the gap between downtown businesses and street-identified individuals (estimated operational cost $100,000 annually); and

- creating supportive housing for those needing a roof over their heads, as well as ready access to support programs to ensure long-term success (estimated cost of $4.5 million capital and $800,000 annually for staff).

The task force has determined the next step is a meeting on potential funding sources “to determine how to make these projects happen.”

March 13, 2019


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