The Region of Waterloo has announced the location of its first outdoor shelter in response to the ongoing homelessness crisis.
A portion of the regionally-owned property at 1001 Erbs Road in Waterloo will become home for up to 50 people experiencing homelessness. It's expected to begin operating in early February.
The site is home to the Waterloo Region Emergency Services Training and Research Centre campus, which includes paramedic services, waste management, and a training facility for municipal emergency services.
The region says the decision is the result of collaboration with the City of Waterloo, Township of Wilmot and The Working Centre.
It will include 50 individual cabins. Each 107-square-foot cabin will furnished, and have hydro, as well as heating and cooling. Amenities such as running water, washrooms, and laundry services will be able to be accessed in the main cabin complex.
It will be staffed 24/7, and managed by The Working Centre. Services will include mental health and addictions supports, as well as connecting residents to permanent housing options.
The region says the site announcement comes after an extensive search for a suitable location outside of downtown cores in consultation with municipal partners and with an Expression of Interest for sites to the general public.
The Outdoor Shelter model is one part of the Region’s Interim Housing Solutions strategy approved by regional council on Aug. 18. The strategy addresses the challenging and complex issue of unsheltered homelessness using four key tools:
- Expanding the Transitional Housing Program;
- Expanding the Home-Based Support Program;
- Expanding the Emergency Shelter Program; and
- Permitting an outdoor shelter.
The Interim Housing Solutions strategy is helping to respond to feedback the Region of Waterloo received from those experiencing homelessness. Through a survey of about 100 people experiencing homelessness across the region, most indicated they would be willing to relocate to an interim model such as an outdoor shelter.
Over 1,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness across the region, including nearly 450 people experiencing chronic homelessness.
More information about the outdoor shelter can be found on the Engage WR Outdoor Shelter webpage.