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Designated tiny home encampment should be considered, mayor says

City council unanimously calls for idea to be discussed during upcoming housing symposium
Mayor Cam Guthrie recently toured a tiny homes manufacturer in Waterloo Region.

Several cities have created designated areas for homeless encampments as the housing affordability crisis continues to grow. Should Guelph do the same? 

Mayor Cam Guthrie is open to the idea.

“I want to help people with a proper home, especially for the elements … especially for winter,” Guthrie told GuelphToday, stressing that at this point he wants to investigate the option and isn’t necessarily in support of moving ahead with the idea. “I need information.”

During a special meeting on housing matters Tuesday afternoon, council unanimously called for the idea of a designated, temporary encampment area featuring build structures to be considered during an upcoming housing symposium hosted by the County of Wellington, which manages social housing programs on behalf of the city.

Guthrie later clarified to GuelphToday he’s not interested in seeing a collection of fortified tents considered, but rather tiny homes with trailers brought in to provide bathrooms and shared kitchen areas.

That, he noted, would be contingent upon the provision of wraparound services for residents.

The county’s symposium is tentatively planned for January, featuring a variety of stakeholders within the community – from support services providers and government officials to those involved in the creation of housing.

Last year, Guelph had 10 known encampments spread throughout the city. As of Monday morning, there were 20.

“It’s doubled in a year,” said Guthrie. “I feel a structured encampment site would be better than tents randomly positioned throughout our city.”

Guthrie said he finds the idea of a tiny homes encampment intriguing for a variety of reasons, including the fact it could be set up fairly quickly to help people in need now.

Also, consolidating 20 sites into one could allow wraparound service providers, bylaw enforcement officers, emergency personnel and others to focus their attention on a single location.

“I’m not stupid enough to think that if we had a structure encampment site tomorrow, the next day there would not be 20 encampments still, but I bet you any money it would certainly alleviate a lot of them,” he said, suggesting people would likely prefer a hard structure to a tent, especially if bathrooms and kitchen space is also made available.

“There is such a huge struggle with the economy … and other factors where people are finding themselves having to ‘live rough.’”

Guthrie pointed to the temporary supportive housing project underway at 65 Delhi St., noting that project is expected to cost $7.5 to $8 million for 28 units. By comparison, he pegged the price of 50 tiny homes at about $1 million.

At this point, there’s a lot of missing data on the subject, said Guthrie, noting it may be determined there isn’t a need for a tiny homes encampment.

However, if there is and there’s political will to go ahead with the idea, the next discussion will be where to put the encampment. 

Guthrie suggested a private landowner may step up to offer a spot for it, or it could be located on city-owned property.

“I get a ton of emails from residents … who are very concerned about encampments and people living in them,” Coun. Carly Klassen said in supporting the motion to look at the idea. “I really think it’s coming from a place of genuine human concern for those people.”


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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