County supports Harm Reduction Housing Project in principle

GUELPH – Wellington County council has given its approval in principle for a proposed Harm Reduction Housing Project.

The project was outlined for the county’s social services committee by Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy (WGDS) manager Adrienne Crowder at the Oct. 9 committee meeting.

The project would provide basic housing designed for homeless people with substance use issues. Increasing community safety, decreasing social costs, and improving the health and lives of individuals in the program are among the aims.

The project would involve purchasing 10 container housing rental units, which are designed to be affordable and sustainable for people living on social service housing allowances.

The committee report notes the project qualifies for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s co-investment fund, consisting of a 15 per cent grant and 85% low-interest loan. The report also notes that units, which cost $50,000 to $60,000 each, would meet or exceed regulations for accessibility and energy efficiency and one unit will be an on-site office in which residents can meet with service providers.

Next steps for the project involve acquisition of a suitable site and applying to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for a seed grant to fund stamped drawings, zoning applications, environmental assessment and other measures.

The WGDS is asking County of Wellington Social Services to provide support for adding Harm Reduction Housing stock to the county’s social housing inventory and to provide  consultation on a potential site and a proponent for the project. When the time comes, the county will also be asked to support a request for funding to the CMHC.

Councillor Dave Anderson, who chairs the county’s social services committee, said the units would be located in Guelph.

“They’re looking at establishing these container units that basically look like the back of a trailer and making them into housing units,” said Anderson.

“They can be retrofitted. There’s no drywall in them. It’s all blown-in insulation. But they are operating apartments. There’s washrooms, there’s sinks, there’s stoves, there’s a little bed area. I think they’re about 400 square feet. They can be put together very inexpensively,” Anderson explained.

“It’s getting people off the streets and getting them a warm area in which to live.”

On Oct. 31 county council approved a committee recommendation directing staff to work with Guelph on the viability of the Harm Reduction Housing Project.