Although the vote to direct City of Guelph to look at developing the land at 106 Beaumont did not go his way, Ward 2 Councillor Rodrigo Goller has no regrets about his advocacy on the file. This past Thursday on Open Sources Guelph, Goller talked about the hectic last month at council, fighting for housing, and the fight to come at Tuesday’s budget meeting.
“We thought having this unused, or underused, piece of land that maybe we can use it for a project that would bring modular homes that could be removed at a later date, and it would help us address this growing problem of homelessness here in the city, at least on a temporary basis,” Goller said of the 106 Beaumont debate.
At the November 4 Committee of the Whole meeting, council heard an update on the creation of harm reduction housing from the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy, which is one of many groups involved in the development of this project. Although social housing is technically managed by the County of Wellington, much of the need is concentrated within the limits of the Royal City.
Goller said that his motion was based on the idea that there was a need, and that the City owned this piece of land that was doing nothing. With partner agencies managing the cost of administering the housing, the City would only need to fund the start up costs, and he wanted information the feasibility of such a project.
“Unfortunately, the way that [the story] was picked up by the media, and the way that it was portrayed, was that council had made a decision to place housing for addicts in that neighborhood,” Goller added. “Even if people understood that it wasn’t a done deal, I think it was scary [for them] to think that something strange and unknown is going to be coming to your neighborhood.”
People in the area of 106 Beaumont were quick to organize against what they thought was a fait accompli, including a town hall moderate by Ward 1 Councillor Dan Gibson. Goller notes that some very good points were made about whether or not this neighbourhood was the right place to build supportive housing.
“That is indeed one of the more under-served areas of our community, and at the time when we had this report, I should have taken a moment to consider who the neighbours were and I didn’t,” Goller explained. “We just thought that we have one piece of land that staff is telling us right now that could potentially be suitable for this.”
Despite everything, Goller still hopes to continue working towards getting greater assistance to Guelph’s homeless population.
“I think the more vocal and the more visible we can make people, and then build a dialogue, is very helpful,” Goller said. “I would encourage other people to speak to your councillors, delegate at meetings, and help share the message to demystify this idea of us versus them and, and to help build some warmth and tolerance towards the most vulnerable members of our community.”
On Tuesday’s budget meeting, Goller said that he’s not just worried about this year’s budget, but next year’s too when the bill for a lot of big ticket projects, like the South End Community Centre and the new main library, comes due.
“That’s going to be a big year, and a lot of that is going to be put on debt, which concerns me because the spending on those ventures means we’re going to be paying upwards of $600,000 per year to maintain that debt,” Goller explained. “It’s like me maxing out my credit card, and then buying things on the Sears card.”
“I think that next year we might have to see how we can stage projects, and hopefully we get good funding from the province for the library and for the the rec centre,” he added.