With concerns about the density of a proposed temporary supportive housing project on Delhi Street, several nearby residents have teamed up to form Delhi Eramosa Neighbourhood Advocates (DENA) and call for the project to be scaled down.
“Our group exists because we think what was proposed was sort of rushed through in a half-baked way,” explained member Stephen Kilburn, whose property backs onto the vacant, historic property at 65 Delhi St.
“We don’t want to stand in opposition to this proposal because we see the homeless on the street downtown, we recognize that it’s a social issue and one that needs to be addressed for a lot of different reasons,” he added. “We want to influence the decision in a way that we feel serves the needs of that vulnerable population best and at the same time not overwhelm our neighbourhood.”
The County of Wellington is seeking official plan amendments and zoning changes to allow the city-owned building to be converted into a 36-unit temporary supportive housing project, with common spaces, shared kitchens and washrooms as well as office space.
The county plans to buy the property, which city council agreed to put up for sale last year, though that’s dependent on approvals being granted.
Under existing rules, the property is capped at 16 beds. The county is seeking permission to more than double that, proposing 36 units for the 0.53-hectare property with frontage on Eramosa Road. It’s also asking that transitional housing be listed as a permitted use, along with an emergency shelter and child care centre.
“You’re cramming a lot of people into a relatively small, historic building, but we can’t see how you can possibly serve the needs of those people when you do that,” said Kilburn, a planner by profession. “The scenario proposed doesn’t look like it would be good for those fellow citizens who found themselves homeless.”
As currently proposed, most resident rooms would be the size of a parking space, with some even smaller. DECA believes those are too tight of quarters – more akin to “warehousing” people than helping them transition into permanent housing – and allows for too little space for support services.
“A good number of people have complex needs,” said Kilburn.
If ultimately approved and the sale goes through, the plan is to relocate the temporary housing initiative currently at Loyola House at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre on Hwy. 6 to 65 Delhi St.
That project is run by the Welcome In Drop-In Centre.
“Offices are not what’s most critical,” Gail Hoekstra, executive director of the Drop-In Centre, said during a May 10 public meeting regarding the county's Delhi Street plan, explaining support services are best achieved through direct interactions with residents. “The amount of offices is not a driver for improved outcome for individuals.”
On a related note, Ward 2 councillors Rodrigo Goller and James Gordon are set to host a virtual town hall on Tuesday regarding the plans for 65 Delhi St. That meeting is slated to get underway at 7 p.m.
More information about it, as well as a link to participate, is posted at ward2guelph.ca.
“The purpose of this session is to provide an opportunity for the community to learn more about the proposal and to ask questions,” the Ward 2 website states, explaining it will involve “short presentations” followed by a question and answer period. “The focus of this session will be on community planning components. Questions and comments of a discriminatory nature that are contrary to Human Rights Code(s) will not be considered.”
Anyone with questions is asked to submit them in advance to email@example.com.