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Guelph council delays decision on public space use bylaw

Guelph City Hall is pictured in a file photo. Guelph City Hall is pictured in a file photo.
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A decision on the proposal to limit homeless encampments on City of Guelph property was deferred at a special meeting Wednesday.

City council heard from more than 25 community members about their thoughts on the draft bylaw, which would see new rules surrounding parks, public squares, sidewalks and municipally-owned land.

In the end, council voted 10-3 to defer the bylaw until after an appeal court ruling is released in a similar case playing out in Kingston.

Council proposed a series of resolutions to move forward the city’s efforts to help address the crisis and mitigate safety concerns for this living in encampments.

Among those resolutions, council directed city staff to:

  • Establish a plan to engage members of the community, including those with lived experience in encampment settings and the downtown community, on the use of public space for shelter;  
  • Review insights and outcomes from the Health and Housing Symposium planned for early April, which is hosted by Wellington County (the County); 
  • Work with Wellington County, front-line workers and unhoused community members to enhance the City’s Encampments on City Property and Road Allowances Operating Procedure to include fire prevention education for community members staying in encampments in Guelph; 
  • Continue to advance advocacy efforts to the provincial and federal governments, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), to:
  • address the need for greater municipal funding to deal with housing instability issues, 
  • prompt legislative reform to address public space use by-laws, and  
  • secure greater healthcare funding to address the crisis in our community connected to mental health and substance use issues;  
  •  Defer further amendments or adoption of the proposed Public Space Use bylaw until the appeal of the Corporation of the City of Kingston v. Doe 2023 ONSC 6662 decision is available.  

Council also asked Wellington County to supply additional resources in regard to availability and access to permanent shelter for unhoused community members.

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