The North Star


Guelph’s Downtown Homeless Population

Broken Promises, Mass Evictions, and Left Out in the Cold

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In his New Year's statement, Premier Doug Ford told Ontarians that he's "proud of what Team Ontario accomplished this past year" and that he "can’t wait to see what’s to come in 2024."  For those involved in supporting the homeless and vulnerable in downtown Guelph, Ford's remarks seem way off the mark; 2023 was marked by the eviction of dozens of residents from Stationview apartments. 

Renters warned the City that the purchase of the building on Carden Street by unknown buyers would have consequences for its low-income residents. Meanwhile, municipal bureaucrats claimed no funding was available to preserve it. The subsequent evictions of low-income tenants have resulted in an increased presence of encampments in the downtown core. Downtown resident Jordan Haywood explains that "most of the tents you see down in the square are past Carden tenants. So without having that place to go, there's not a lot of cheap options in this city, so a lot of them are sent to encampments and tent cities."

Following the evictions and subsequent rise in homelessness in the heart of the city, Mayor Cam Guthrie drafted a motion to city council which would lead to a mass eviction of tents and encampments downtown, citing an "uneasy" atmosphere in the city centre. Many residents of downtown Guelph doubted the authenticity of the Mayor's intentions and his claim to be "helping those that are experiencing major struggles in their lives." Haywood says that Mayor Guthrie "didn't seem that interested" in assisting those Guelphites who are in need.

Haywood explains that he's "assuming it was more of an image thing; trying to clean up the streets more or less, make it more presentable, make it more attractive to potential consumers."

Guelph City Hall

Downtown resident George Chapman has experienced homelessness with his family. He says that the Mayor's office "just wants to mask and hide" the homeless population and encampments. "I think their priorities are all about money. They've got their friends with money. Their friends don't want to see it. They don't want to believe it's a problem, but every day in the news you read about it."

The Mayor announced his motion over social media and received instant backlash from community members and activists. Many called out the motion as further criminalizing homelessness and simply moving one face of the housing crisis elsewhere. When pressed on where the evicted residents were supposed to go, Mayor Guthrie was unable to answer.

The mayor subsequently altered his motion, which called for an inquiry into the feasibility of a temporary encampment site. He later withdrew it following an Ontario Superior Court denial of an application brought by the City of Kingston for an order to clear an encampment in Belle Park. 

"I knew he was gonna get a lot of backlash," says Haywood. "I'm pretty sure he's just holding [the motion] off for now. He's probably gonna come back around and do it at some point."

According to both Haywood and Chapman, a substantial part of the support for encampment residents comes from the downtown community itself and the third-party organizations that provide food, shelter, clothing, and financial assistance. Chapman tells us, "The downtown community of Guelph is amazing. It's the upper class that needs to get involved more. We [support each other]. We're fairly new to the community and they welcomed us."

Guelph's Housing Crisis

  1. Broken Promises, Mass Evictions, and Left Out in the Cold
  2. Guelph Tenants Harassed, Threatened, and pushed onto the Streets
  3. Impending Eviction Threats Stoke Concerns in Guelph
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