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Guthrie: county, province need to ‘step up’ on housing, homeless

Mayor ‘frustrated’ public concerns ‘always goes to the police’
20210730 Guelph Police headquarters RV
Guelph Police headquarters.

Police are often called to respond to issues when they’re not the appropriate folks to deal with the situation, believes Mayor Cam Guthrie, who recently called on the County of Wellington and provincial government to “step up” “big time” to fulfill their role.

“My frustration is, somewhere the community, by accident, they don’t understand the different stakeholders and the different jurisdictions and who does what. And as we’ve seen over the years, everyone just always goes to the police if something doesn’t look right or something’s not happening correctly,” he said during last week’s Guelph Police Services board meeting. “It’s like a default, a knee-jerk reaction and we all do it kind of innocently.”

However, Guthrie noted, the issues at hand, especially in the downtown core, are often related to homelessness or social services, which are provided by the county, or mental health, which is the provincial government’s responsibility.

“I think it’s important that the policing aspect is about public safety issues and most of the issues that we are experiencing are actually not that. They are homelessness, addictions, mental health,” the mayor said. “The other stakeholders, in my view … they’re the ones that need to step up on this.

“It’s important the community understands this is not all on police.”

GPS chief Gordon Cobey agreed, telling the board officers would be the first to acknowledge they’re not clinicians or mental health providers.

“Often the calls we attend are symptomatic of other areas that we haven’t proactively funded as a society, as a city, as a community, as a country so our members are often responding because they quite literally are the only ones available to go. We do it many, many, many times a day.

“We need to have a plan and that plan can’t just be about the police.”