"I'll be homeless," says Chris Hirtle who was recently handed an N13 from his landlord, also known as a ‘renoviction’.
“This is exactly how it happens.”
Hirtle just moved to his place that borders Kitchener and Cambridge three months ago, after his previous rental in Preston became too expensive for his single person income.
It wasn’t until he moved in and signed a lease that he noticed a slew of problems.
There was no heat, no hot water and the electrical wasn’t working, said Hirtle.
After some hostile negotiations with his landlord, he realized things would not get fixed and began searching for a new place, concentrating his search in Cambridge where he travels three or four times a week by public transit to see his doctors.
“I’ve been looking for almost two months now and the minute I say I’m on ODSP that is the end of the conversation. I even got turned down for a $600 apartment.”
He called bylaw at the City of Kitchener to get the apartment looked at to see if they could force the landlord to fix things. To his dismay things were worse than originally thought.
The fire department came at bylaw’s request and told him there once was a fire, the ceiling was never fixed so it could cave any moment.
They placed a notice on the landlord’s door, informing them of their choices, as the building was only permitted for one unit and not the second where Hirtle was currently occupying.
Within a few days, he was given an N13 from his landlord, informing him he had until the end of his lease to move out.
He signed up for housing with a few agencies in the region last year but has never heard anything back from them.
“I can’t find anything for $1,000 or less,” said Hirtle, stuck with the limited amount ODSP offers, mentioning the places he does find are often in disarray like his current location.
With the recent rise in encampments, the last thing the Unsheltered Campaign wants to see is another resident out on the streets.
The Unsheltered Campaign was created by combining grassroot organizations such as Alliance Against Poverty and WR YIMBY, to work collaboratively to have a bigger impact. It was started during the pandemic two years ago to create a more coordinated response to the rise in homeless people in the region.
“We came to realize there were a lot of people left behind in that situation who didn’t really have a clue what was going on,” said Regan Sunshine Brusse, a communications facilitator for the Unsheltered Campaign as well as an advocate for housing with Alliance Against Poverty.
“A lot of agencies, grassroots organizations are overwhelmed.”
“There is not enough access on the streets to things like the media, news outlets, the internet so they don’t always hear about what’s going on.”
“With lack of capacity in the region, it’s hard to not see that the situation is growing quite a bit,” added Brusse.
“Locally we talk about having a housing first policy, however how can we not realize that the lack of alternative options for people living in these encampments, that this is the only housing they have and meet them where they are. Give them stability by not constantly bumping them around and breaking the steps forward that people have already made.”
Right now the Unsheltered Campaign is working to get all municipalities in the region to come to the table and discuss how they can make things better. They have had some recent mediation with the City of Waterloo but are still waiting to hear anything from the City of Cambridge.
“What we want to see is housing become affordable so encampments aren’t necessary and shelters aren’t necessary,” says Martin Aisling, Waterloo Region Yes In My Backyard co-founder.
WR YIMBY was created in response to recent 'NIMBYism,' which is what people refer to as Not In My Backyard, meaning they don’t want homeless people or encampments in their neighbourhood.
“We understand why someone wouldn’t want to live near them and if it is private property that is up to the owner – but if not here then where.”
The Unsheltered Campaign wants to see the Region sanction more encampments on public property to provide more stability and be able to continue providing wrap-around services.
“Of course we can’t be content with encampments existing. Evicting is kind of like kicking the problem down the road or kicking people when they're down, it just makes it so much harder for them,” he added.
The Unsheltered Campaign would like to see all the municipalities work together collaboratively with the agencies and organizations like theirs, to create a coordinated response to the ongoing rise of homelessness they are seeing.
“Cambridge needs to take a much more compassionate approach to the situations they are encountering but it’s not just Cambridge,” said Brusse.
“Essentially we have to be more welcoming to those people in our community, they are members, citizens and neighbours of ours.”