The City of Guelph, Ont., is out with an operational plan designed to make the downtown area more welcoming, and for residents and visitors feel safe.
The plan comes from the Strategic Advisory Group, a subcommittee of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and Community Safety.
The advisory group is made up of Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie and Shakiba Shayani, president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce as co-chairs.
The group also consists of MP Lloyd Longfield, MPP Mike Schreiner, Chief of Police Gord Cobey, directors of front-line service agencies, and staff from the County of Wellington.
In a news release, the operational plan consists of six priorities: accelerating permanent supportive housing, expanding daytime and overnight services and facilities, enhancing safety, strengthening resilience and prevention, making changes for acute needs, and advocating for policy and system change (including funding from upper levels of government).
“We know there are individuals in our downtown and across the city who are suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness,” said Shayani.
“That’s having a negative impact on businesses and others accessing our downtown.”
Shayani added that waiting for the perfect solution isn’t an option.
“We believe that the community deserves better and we have a role in finding solutions,” said Shayani. “There are amazing businesses, activities, and communities in downtown Guelph. That includes those who have a diverse background and experiences.”
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The plan will also further guide the group in developing detailed activities and tasks to be shared with the public.
“The Advisory Group remains focused on tangible actions to address the issues facing people our downtown core,” Guthrie said. “We’ll keep city council, other levels of government, and the community updated on plans to unite around these stated short, medium, and long term steps, and our progress.”
Shayani said the group has set some immediate and long-term goals.
“In the short term, it’s really about meeting some immediate and acute challenges, and finding effective ways to work together as service providers,” said Shayani.
“In the medium and long-term, we want to focus on system redesign. What will it take for us to redesign the system of social services and health care services for folks?”