Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and Community Safety

In July 2022, Council endorsed the creation of a new Strategic Advisory Group on Downtown Guelph, to function as a subcommittee of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and Community Safety.

Learn about the work of the Strategic Advisory Group on Downtown Guelph

In January 2019, Mayor Guthrie convened a task force of community leaders and agencies to take action on the issues of homelessness, addiction, and mental health needs in Guelph.

The Task Force released a report in February 2019 outlining five priorities, which have all been actioned:

  • The Welcoming Streets downtown outreach program was funded and expanded to two workers in March 2019;
  • An Addiction Court Support Worker program was re-established in May 2019;
  • An expanded, 5-bed Supported Recovery Room opened in October 2019;
  • System and service improvements are being implemented on an ongoing basis in local agencies; and
  • the Task Force was reconvened in February 2020 with a focus on supportive housing. Three proposed local supportive housing projects are now in development along with a number of related initiatives.

Video: United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin – No One Left Behind (September 2019)Supportive and Affordable Housing Update – Staff report to Guelph City Council (October 26, 2020)Information Sheet: Permanent Supportive Housing (June 2020)Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and Community Safety – Report (February 2019)

Resources and background

Meeting summaries

June 21, 2022

Guelph, Ont., – Mayor Cam Guthrie’s Task Force on Supportive Housing convened to reflect on significant progress on supportive housing projects, and to discuss the next phase of local advocacy for operating funding.

Task Force members heard that construction is underway or imminent for three supportive housing projects that will collectively add 72 units in Guelph: Grace Gardens on Woolwich Street, Wyndham House’s Bellevue project, and Kindle Communities’ project on Shelldale Crescent. Another 28 units would be built at a proposed transitional housing project at 65 Delhi Street, which was approved by Guelph City Council but is currently under appeal at the Ontario Land Tribunal.

The United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin and the Guelph Community Foundation have launched the Home for Good fundraising campaign to raise funds for capital costs, maintenance, and future opportunities.

“This is an incredible amount of progress, and it will help us reduce the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in our community by 50 per cent. This is the result of collaboration across many service providers and agencies, and all levels of government,” said Mayor Guthrie. “The Task Force plans to bring that same spirit of collaboration to continued advocacy, particularly for the operating dollars to fund the supports people need to be successful.”

The Task Force agreed that there is an urgent need for health, mental health, addictions, and other supports in the downtown core and throughout the city. A new strategic advisory group will focus on these issues, including coordinating an advocacy effort for Provincial funding and promoting local actions.

It also supported and echoed the Ontario Big City Mayors’ request to Premier Doug Ford for an emergency meeting to address the chronic homelessness, mental health, safety, and addictions crisis.

“These issues are having a devastating impact on our most marginalized and vulnerable citizens, as well as on local businesses and our communities as a whole,” said Mayor Guthrie. “As a society, we need to step up and fund supports that are urgently needed to protect people from falling through the cracks of our health care, mental health, and housing systems.”

An update on supportive housing progress, challenges and goals will be presented at a future meeting of Guelph City Council.

October 21, 2020

Mayor Guthrie advised that there would be a report to Guelph City Council on October 26 about affordable and supportive housing options. Dominica re-stated the overall goal of ending homelessness for high-acuity individuals in Guelph-Wellington by 2020. She then introduced a series of updates since the June meeting:

Kindle Supportive Housing project: Sheila Markle, CEO of Kindle, advised that Skyline has gifted a parcel of land close to the Shelldale Centre to Kindle for the purposes of a supportive housing development for approximately 30 people. The project is a partnership between Kindle, Skyline, and the Guelph Community Health Centre. More information can be found here:

Parkview Motel project: Gail Hoekstra, ED of the Welcome In Drop-In, advised of plans to purchase the Parkview Motel and convert it to a permanent supportive housing project to house 36 people. The Parkview has been used for decades to provide temporary/ shelter overflow housing. The difference with the supportive housing project is that there will be coordinated supports available (including primary care, mental health, and addiction supports) and that this will be a place to call home, rather than a temporary shelter that they will be asked to leave.

Wyndham House: Debbie Bentley-Lauzon, ED of Wyndham House, advised of plans to convert Wyndham House’s existing Bellevue site, which has shared bedrooms and bathrooms that don’t meet the needs of high acuity clients, into a “pod” layout. This layout will better meet the needs of youth, most of whom don’t meet criteria for any other local housing options, and lead to better outcomes.

Fundraising: Colleen Murdoch of the United Way and Jessica Barrie of the Guelph Community Foundation provided an update on a planned capital fundraising campaign, including a campaign cabinet that will be announced shortly.

Supports and system improvements: Melissa Kwiatkowski of the Guelph Community Health Centre described improvements in health that have resulted from services being available on-site with housing. Mark Poste of the County of Wellington provided an update on the Loyola House project, which enables people to be supported with services where they’re housed.

Dominica concluded by reflecting on the tremendous amount of progress that has been made on all fronts since the June meeting.

June 24, 2020

In response to the February meeting’s discussions about resourcing, the Guelph-Wellington Poverty Elimination Task Force Steering Committee endorsed Dominica McPherson to dedicate 70% of her work plan to advancing the proposals and projects identified by the Mayor’s Task Force on Supportive Housing. Dominica was named Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Task Force.

Dominica gave a presentation and led a discussion of the need, current status, and opportunities for action on supportive housing in Guelph and Wellington. Through a roundtable discussion, members of the Task Force identified next steps for action. Members volunteered to take the lead on various action items and report back to the Task Force at the next meeting.

February 12, 2020

One year after the Mayor’s Task Force report was released, three projects had been successfully funded and implemented: Welcoming Streets, a 5-bed Supported Recovery Room, and an Addiction Court Support Worker program.

The Mayor re-convened the Task Force with a slightly different membership to address the longer-term goal of permanent supportive housing.

The February 12, 2020 meeting was an introductory meeting to agree on broad goals and how the Task Force might support making permanent supportive housing a reality.

Dominica McPherson (Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination) circulated a fact sheet and provided a brief overview of what permanent supportive housing is and shared the need for this type of housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.

The group discussed possible funding streams (particularly from the federal government). There was consensus that there needs to be an integrated approach between the service side (supports and services) and the housing side (housing stock/ buildings), and that it is necessary for a proponent to come forward to build a project. Several members noted that, given the complexity of the challenge and the need for collaboration across governments and agencies, it would be helpful to have one person/resource dedicated to moving permanent supportive housing forward. Task Force members agreed to take the resourcing issue to their boards of directors for further discussion. Task Force members also committed to sharing information on models, approaches and consultants that have been successful in other cities.

February 18, 2019

This was a meeting with funding organizations, rather than the entire Task Force, to lay the groundwork for seeking funding opportunities for the identified priorities. Various potential funding sources, programs, and partnerships were identified.

January 24, 2019

This was a focused working session where Task Force members worked towards consensus on a list of priorities. At the start of the meeting, the Task Force reflected on the January 15 meeting. Then, participants reviewed and discussed an impact/effort matrix on which key projects had been plotted.

Task Force members then participated in a “dotmocracy” exercise by placing 3 dot stickers on the project(s) they would most like to see implemented. Then, members were asked to select a project to explore in greater detail at a working table. Each table then considered a number of questions related to their chosen project, including what the deliverables would be, the ease of implementation, main tasks involved in fulfilling it, and what skills and resources are available or would be needed. Finally, each table reported back on their discussions, providing an overview of how implementation of this priority could occur, what resources are needed, and who can help.

Mayor Guthrie committed to developing a report on the Task Force’s discussions to set out the priorities for action. The report would be circulated to members and made public.

Mayor Guthrie pledged to make a municipal funding request to Guelph City Council through the City’s Budget process, and to meet with government representatives and funding agencies to advocate for funding.

January 15, 2019

This was a stage-setting meeting where the Task Force heard presentations from local organizations about what the issues are, what’s being done already, and what some potential solutions are.

Dominica McPherson (Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination) and Ryan Pettipiere (County of Wellington) talked about the 20K Homes Campaign, point-in-time count, and the local By-Name List. They also discussed the challenges of those with the most complex needs, and how the challenges of homelessness, addiction/substance use, and mental health issues often intersect. They emphasized that the solution to homelessness is housing, and that permanent supportive housing would make a significant difference particularly for people with complex needs.

Adrienne Crowder (Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy) introduced the Drug Strategy’s four pillar approach, which includes prevention, treatment and recovery, harm reduction, and community safety, and provided an overview of the various parts of the local system including health care/hospitals, the justice system, and community supports.

Successful pilot projects were shared. Kerry Manthenga of Stonehenge Therapeutic Community gave an overview of the Addiction Court Support Program. Leanne Swantko of Guelph Wellington EMS provided an overview of the Supported Recovery Pilot. The pilot projects ended when their funding concluded. Jan Klotz of the Guelph Community Health Centre and Gail Hoekstra of the Welcome In Drop In Centre provided additional context about the services available locally and the people they serve.