Grace Gardens took another step closer to becoming a reality today with the announcement from the County of Wellington that the Welcome In Drop In Centre has completed the purchase of the Parkview Motel on Woolwich Street for its conversion to social housing. The next step will be in Guelph’s virtual council chambers on Monday when councillors will vote on whether to approve the rezoning and proceed with the establishment of supportive housing.
“Wellington County Council is pleased to help fund this purchase and provide operating support to Grace Gardens” said Warden Kelly Linton in a statement. “We are committed to working collaboratively with partners in our community to end homelessness in Guelph-Wellington.”
The purchase was made possible with $1.2 million in funding from the County and from Ontario’s Social Services Relief Fund, which was designed by the Provincial government to help service providers renovate and purchase facilities to create longer-term housing solutions to fight homelessness. The program was announced last December.
“Our government’s Social Services Relief Fund was designed to provide both immediate and longer-term housing and homelessness relief in communities across Ontario,” said Perth Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece. “I’m happy we are working with Wellington County and the Guelph community to help meet the need for safe and affordable housing, and protect vulnerable people from COVID-19.”
The Drop In Centre has been using the Parkview as an emergency shelter for 35 years, and has been using it for temporary housing for people in Guelph affected by homelessness during the pandemic. This project will see the Parkview converted from a motel into permanent supportive housing, with units for 32 people plus communal spaces and access to support staff on a 24/7 basis.
“We have been working towards a purchase of this nature for nine years,” said Drop In Centre executive director Gail Hoekstra. “Grace Gardens will have an impact, one way or another, in helping us restore hope, safety and grace for individuals who need it most.”
Hoeksta says that staff will be cleaning up and organizing the space over the next few weeks with the expectation of receiving its first guests in May. The facility will still have to undergo renovations that will formally transform the building into supportive housing, and that will depend on what happens at Guelph City Council Monday night.
At this month’s planning meeting, council will hear staff’s recommendation to approve the re-zoning of the property with some conditions. Last fall, Hoekstra said that it was expected to cost nearly $4 million to buy the motel; a 30 per cent down payment that comes out to about $1.14 million in order to secure the purchase. According to a letter that Hoekstra provided to council in February, the Drop In Centre will be providing $600,000 in capital funding with the County of Wellington kicking in a $1.2 million capital commitment. Meanwhile, the City of Guelph is being asked to forgive the usual fees including the cash-in-lieu provision of the Parkland bylaw.
Grace Gardens is one of two supportive housing applications that have appeared before city council with a Zoning Bylaw Amendment application so far this year. A development on Shelldale Crescent by Kindle Communities and Skyline is still awaiting a decision from staff.
“Grace Gardens is a perfect example of our community’s dedication to ending homelessness in Guelph and Wellington County,” said David Anderson, Chair of the Wellington County’s Social Services Committee.