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Homelessness in Guelph
During the 2021 Everyone Counts Point-in-Time count in Guelph-Wellington, the County of Wellington estimated that at least 270 people were experiencing homelessness.
Addressing homelessness is a tough social issue. It takes cooperation between distinct levels of government, community organizations, and other partners to provide support and address issues of homelessness.
Who’s responsible for addressing homelessness?
Everyone has a role to play in helping to address homelessness. Individuals can help by volunteering for community organizations, making donations to those organizations, or advocating to all levels of government for better resources to address the root causes of homelessness and create more support.
The Province has designated the County of Wellington to lead programs aimed at preventing homelessness in Guelph and Wellington County. Learn more about the County’s approach to homelessness and housing stability.
The City also plays a vital role in addressing homelessness in Guelph by supporting the organizations and agencies that provide services to support people experiencing homelessness. The City provides funding for street outreach and other programs that offer support and resources to equity-deserving members of the community and advocates to higher levels of government for more and better resources.
What’s an encampment?
An encampment is a place where people experiencing homelessness or other significant life challenges gather and live together, often in tents or temporary shelters. More people are finding themselves without homes these days due to both local and widespread issues such as the loss of available housing and an increase in housing costs. These impacts are leading to an increase in homelessness and encampments in Guelph and across the province and country.
What happens when someone reports an encampment?
Many people living in encampments have nowhere else to go. City Bylaw officers respond to reports about encampments on public and private land with a human rights approach that’s aimed at helping people connect to the support they need. Our focus is not on the removal of people from encampments, but rather on making sure those living in them are safe and helping them find a more long-term housing solution.
We take immediate action by visiting the encampment to check for potential health and safety concerns. Bylaw officers also identify and address noise or other bylaw violations that can impact others in the area and will remove abandoned or vacant encampment structures on public property only when there are immediate impacts to safety.
Having first ensured the encampment doesn’t pose any immediate risks, Bylaw officers connect with community support agencies. These agencies can help people living in encampments find more secure and longer-term housing based on what’s available. Bylaw officers encourage people to move to more secure housing and make sure that encampments don’t affect other people’s access whether it’s to paths, parks, or private property.
If an encampment is on private property, property owners should report the encampment to the City. Bylaw officers will attend the property to address any City bylaws. Bylaw officers will provide the property owner with the contact information for the appropriate community support agencies for additional support.
Since many people living in encampments have nowhere else to go, it’s unrealistic to expect that encampments can be eliminated entirely, but it’s possible to make sure people in encampments are safe. Reporting an encampment doesn’t mean we’ll remove it, but it does mean that people living there, and surrounding neighbourhoods, are supported and have access to resources.
How to get help
- Call 911 if there’s a medical emergency or to report someone in distress.
- For general questions or concerns about encampments, or to report one, call the City’s Bylaw team at 519-837-2529 or use the City’s Report a problem map.
- If you’re concerned about an individual, you see on the street in need of assistance, call Wellington County (HERE 24/7) at 1-844-437-3247 (local number: 519-821-3582).