Advisory Committee Lays Out More Specific Plans for Downtown

It happened in the middle of the fall election campaign, but the new Strategic Advisory Group on downtown Guelph released a series of short to long-term goals that they hope to achieve to create a safer and more welcoming downtown core. The City of Guelph released a new update on Thursday saying that their aspirations have started to take shape with more formal directions, a “high-level, tactical roadmap to achieving the objectives” if you will.

“The Advisory Group is remaining focused on tangible action steps to address the issues facing our downtown core. Our plans to unite around these stated steps, (both short, medium and long term), will help inform City Council, other levels of government, and the community very soon,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement.

As previously released by the committee, they have six priority areas: accelerating permanent supportive housing; expanding daytime and overnight services and facilities; enhancing safety; strengthening resilience and prevention; making service changes for acute needs and; advocating for policy and system change (including funding from upper levels of government). Those priorities have now been turned into operational plans.

“Navigating the many systems of services, government jurisdictions and folks tasked to intervene on the issues we’re discussing has been a challenge. I will continue to support the group and help hold us accountable for as long it takes to create better outcomes for everyone,” added co-chair Shakiba Shayani, president and CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

In terms of the short term plans, the committee is moving to enhance safety by looking at the cost of installing new safety measures, looking at the cost of another downtown resource officer, creating a crisis response plan, and increasing the impact of the Clean Street Team. They’re also looking at morning check-ins using a team that includes Guelph Police, by-law, Welcoming Streets and outreach workers.

On expanding services and facilities, the committee is looking to get funding approved for a one-year expansion of hours at the Royal City Mission while looking at a review of the shelter system, better integrated mental health and clinical care, and the potential for hygiene and storage facilities. Plans to accelerate permanent supportive housing still depends on ramping up the United Way’s Home for Good campaign.

On the medium term goal of strengthening community resilience and prevention, the committee plans to lean on previously established programs through the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, and the Community Resilience Coalition GW while amplifying the Poverty Task Force’s Yes In My Backyard campaign. The committee will also look  at advocacy around clinical treatment pathways, crisis stabilization, and expansion of addiction treatment programming in order to fight acute needs.

The committee’s still working on a way forward when it comes to the one long-term goal of policy and system change.

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner, and representatives from Wellington County, the United Way, Guelph Police, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Stonehenge Therapeutic, the Guelph Community Health Centre, Guelph Library and downtown businesses are also members of the committee.

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