‘I have failed as a mayor’: Cam Guthrie on Guelph’s homeless issue

File photo.
File photo. Global News

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie admits he has failed to address the city’s growing homeless issue.

His comments on homelessness stuck out during his state of the city address on Thursday morning. The event was hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

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Guthrie was detailing the recently-established task force on homelessness and community safety, and its priorities before going off-script.

“I have failed as a mayor, as a leader in regards to this issue,” Guthrie said. “This is an issue that has to be solved. We cannot be a community if we are leaving people behind.”

Guthrie said it’s no longer a problem for the provincial and federal governments to deal with, and the city can no longer wait.

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“There are people who have been dying in our city,” he said. “We must step up and I will not fail as the leader of this city over the next four years.

“No longer am I going to use the crutch or excuse that it’s someone else’s problem. It’s our problem and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

The mayor’s task force is proposing five actions: provide permanent supportive housing for 15 chronically homeless people; reopen a supported recovery room; restart an addiction court support worker program; make system and service improvements; and fund the Welcoming Streets initiative.

The Welcoming Streets initiative is a pilot project that expires March 31. It sends an outreach worker to respond to situations involving individuals and businesses in the downtown.

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Guthrie said some of these actions may need to be funded through the city’s budget, but also asked businesses and organizations to contribute.

“It’s a community crisis, it takes a community response,” he said

“We are not going to get a magic bag of money from the province to deal with this,” he said. “We are going to have to do it together.”

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