Holiday inn

LETTER: A call for better use of the old Holiday Inn site

Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy Peer Advisory Committee disappointed that the former Holiday Inn was not being used to help provide affordable housing

GuelphToday has received the following letter from the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy Peer Advisory Committee regarding the Holiday Inn conversion to student accommodation:

For the publisher,

This letter was written by the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy Peer Advisory Committee, which is made up of people with lived experience of substance use. Many of us have lived or are living in precarious housing and / or homelessness. Many members of our community are currently living on the streets, outside or in the shelter system.

It is for these reasons that it seemed appropriate to us that our committee respond to the recent proposal to convert the Holiday Inn on Scottsdale into student accommodation without considering other uses for this accommodation resource. We believe this proposal expresses a lack of consideration for the well-being of the most vulnerable people in our communities – those who live without housing during the winter months, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and grow. intensify.

Guelph tracks its homeless population by performing a Point-in-Time Count (PIT), a process designed to take a snapshot of the homelessness situation in our community. While this program is not able to produce fully accurate data, it does give us a general idea of ​​how many people have failed our systems. The last published PIT (2018) identified 325 homeless people in Guelph.

In Guelph, there are many dedicated student housing and only one homeless accommodation agency for adults and one for youth – both of which have a total of around 75 maximum capacity beds, assuming COVID protocols have not reduced the number of individuals that can be accommodated in an assembly setting. We wonder if the additional student housing reflects the housing needs of our community?

To further shed light on the experiences of homeless people, it is important to understand that the waiting list for housing in Wellington County spans several years. Community members are now using emergency and short-term shelter systems as their housing system, knowing that there will be no housing available for them even after a stay in a shelter.

Shelter systems are not designed to help people with long-term housing. People can be banned or raped for not being able to comply with short-term policies and procedures during long-term stays. Affordable housing options in Guelph’s private market are extremely limited for people on social assistance.

The lack of housing options often forces people to live outdoors. Coming to this reality impacts your whole being in a way that many will never experience. Fear, stress, insecurity and survival all become all consuming. Not only are these people at increased risk of death during the winter months due to the harsh weather conditions, but we are now seeing replicas of responses from other urban centers to the settlements in the form of forced evictions.

When a member of the community calls the city because they are worried about people living outside, that call is taken care of by municipal officers dispatched to the camp and giving residents 48 hours to move out with all their belongings. properties. Forty-eight hours, with a multi-year waiting list for housing, only 27 beds in emergency shelters for adults and hundreds of people in the same situation. We wonder how this fits in with people’s idea of ​​Guelph as a compassionate community. Does this sound safe? Fair? Strategic?

The Holiday Inn facilities in Scottsdale could easily be converted into affordable accommodation. Additional hotel spaces could be used for food / medical / social service programs to provide individuals with relevant access to general well-being. Council member Phil Allt said in GuelphToday: “It would make perfect supportive housing. We hope to continue this conversation.

We know it would take work, funding, and organization, but there are plenty of examples to guide you.

Wilfrid Laurier University worked with the Region of Waterloo and local social service providers to develop emergency housing in the Waterloo Campus Co-op Residence building at the onset of the pandemic, stating that “Laurier is supporting the efforts ongoing efforts from the region, the City of Waterloo, social service agencies and other levels of government to provide housing and services to community members who need additional support. As this project progresses, Laurier is committed to working with the Region of Waterloo, the Region of Waterloo Police Service, the City of Waterloo, the Work Center and the University of Waterloo. to meet ongoing needs, address all concerns and support positive outcomes for both the project and our University community.

As the owner of this property on Scottsdale, we wonder if the University of Guelph could take a similar position to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our own community. As residents of Guelph, are we prepared to accept our current housing services as adequate? If we don’t act now, how can we expect the affordable housing situation to improve?

We encourage the City of Guelph and the University of Guelph to reconsider their direction and take action to improve the safety and well-being of the community. We encourage anyone interested in seeing more creative affordable housing options to call or email their city councilors and request a review of the Scottsdale site and the ability of other future projects to be used to meet local needs. housing reviews.

We can do better by choosing to take into account the needs of all members of our community.

Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy Peer Advisory Committee

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