Community-led group in Guelph looking for land to build tiny home community

Much like the “Better Tent City” on Ardelt Avenue in Kitchener, a Guelph group is looking at bringing a similar idea to the city’s downtown core.

The Guelph Tiny Home Coalition is looking for anywhere between 0.8 to 2 acres of vacant land to build tiny homes and bring down the number of encampments in the city.

Mike Marcolongo is a spokesperson with the Guelph Tiny Homes Coalition and he tells The Mike Farwell Show about the services they are looking for to be near the potential tiny home community.

“We have a bunch of criteria and we’ll be evaluating each site based off of that criteria,” Marcolongo said. “Ideally close to servicing. At this point, we do have a site outside of the city’s core, but it’s at the periphery of the city, it’s not in-service land. Servicing would be expensive for that specific site. Electricity, not too close to residential areas, and if it is in a residential area, there’s some sort of physical barrier to that area. Within walking distance to transit. There’s a bunch of other criteria that we are also assessing as well.”

Marcolongo said support is a big part of the conversation where they already have a partner lined up for this project.

“We have at this point with a service provider,” he said. “Royal City Mission does extensive work in the downtown with the homeless and displaced community, we have a partnership with them. There are lots of conversations around how to integrate all the other health care and addiction providers in the city. Sanguen, Guelph Community Health Centre and others that currently provide services. The advantage of the tiny home community model is that it’s a one-location centralized and those providers don’t have to go into the woods or underpasses. There are over 30 encampments at this point in the City of Guelph. It’s a model that is certainly attractive to the service providers as well.”

He adds they are going to be taking a phased approach if they can acquire the land they need to build tiny homes.

“We’re looking at a minimum, this coming year, about 15-20 units and ideally going up to 50 as we evolve,” he said.

Marcolongo said this is a “temporary project” just to get folks in the initial foothold of getting out of encampments and into structures.

“We’re assuming that there is anywhere between 300 to 500 [unhoused folks] at this point in time,” he said. “The tough situation that is unpredictable and out of control is that some privately held housing options are being sold off and gentrified.”

He adds that the City of Guelph is also pushing to address the encampment issue through the municipality.

“We’re meeting with the city on a weekly basis to make sure we are aligned with both of our initiatives,” he said. “We’re a different model but complementary. We need all hands on deck at this point because it is a significant crisis in terms of what our community needs. We applaud the city in terms of their work on this.”

Marcolongo made the request for land on April 16 and he has heard some feedback about what’s out there right now.

“There has been some responses,” he said. “We’ve had community members reaching out to us on behalf of other property owners,” he said. “We have been reaching out to land owners and we’re pursuing all avenues at this point in time.”

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