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Proposed new city bylaw would limit when, where encampments are allowed

Council to consider several new rules, including encampment size limit and rules against destroying natural environment, on Feb. 14
An encampment with several tents and other structures in St. George's Square.

The encampment in St. George’s Square would need to go, at least during daylight hours, under a proposed bylaw heading to council for consideration during a special meeting later this month.

Dubbed the 'public space use bylaw,' it would, if approved, place a series of new rules on the use of parks, public squares, sidewalks, trails and other municipally owned or operated lands.

“This protocol balances the rights and needs of those living in encampments, along with those from the community as a whole wishing to access city space, while also taking into consideration impacts to the environment,” states a staff report accompanying the draft bylaw, which will be presented to council on Feb. 14.

“It is vitally important that continued coordinated efforts be made to ensure that accessible shelter spaces are available in the community to meet the needs of unsheltered individuals in the community.”

The bylaw, if approved that night, is expected to come into effect on March 1.

Among other things, the proposal is to ban encampments in spaces with competing public use during daytime hours (permitted one hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise); establish separation distances between encampments and school properties, childcare centres, railways, waterways and cemeteries.

Encampments would also be limited to five structures.

It further prohibits the use of the city’s electrical outlets, outdoor faucets and fountains.

Under the bylaw, no one can “in any way destroy, damage, foul, injure or impair” the natural environment, real property or personal property. Nor could anyone gather or store building supplies, water or refuse unless kept inside a temporary structure not banned through the bylaw. 

It would also ban people from obstructing the ingress or egress of any property, or obstructing “in any way” the city, its employees, contractors, agents and representatives from any public space.

When it comes to propane cylinders, they must not be kept in an enclosed space, in direct sunlight or near a heat source. Limits would also be placed on the use of propane cylinders.

The draft bylaw was created following direction from council last month, with instruction to have it ready for consideration before the end of February.

That timeline didn’t allow for “extensive research,” the staff report notes, explaining efforts included a review of past reports to council on housing and homelessness, as well as bylaws and policies of other municipalities that have “worked well” in those jurisdictions.

“When conducting the review, staff considered human dignity, community safety, and environmental risks,” the report reads. 

Ongoing advocacy is needed at the provincial level for increased social housing, long-term care, land ambulance and social services, it continues.

“While this bylaw will not resolve these significant underlying issues, it will assist with balancing the competing space needs for city owned property, addressing safety concerns, setting out guidelines to protect vulnerable individuals, and supporting the enjoyment of public spaces by all residents.”


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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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