What to do with the encampment located at 55 Kerr St. in Cambridge remains an ongoing issue for both the city and the region.
Initially set up on private property on land that is going to be developed into two 18-storey condominiums with 445 units, some tents and personal belonging have now navigated their way to regional land in the parking lot of 150 Main St. in downtown Cambridge.
This presents a new set of issues for the Region of Waterloo but the commitment remains to providing services to help those currently setting up shelter on the property.
“As the Service System Manager, our goal is to ensure that anyone experiencing un-sheltered homelessness across Waterloo Region has access to services,” Peter Sweeney, commissioner of community services for the Region of Waterloo said in a statement to Cambridge Today.
“Outreach workers make one-on-one connections with individuals on an ongoing basis.”
As of yesterday afternoon, social workers were on site working with those in need, while others were packing up and leaving for another, unknown location.
Sweeney says the region is working quickly to expand emergency shelter capacity in the form of their Interim Housing Solutions strategy that was recently approved by regional council.
“We will be developing a Homelessness Master Plan with the goal to prevent and end homelessness,” he said.
“We are committed to building a healthy and inclusive community for everyone where all residents can thrive and feel supported.”
Ward 4 councillor and mayoral candidate Jan Liggett says concerns have been coming in from both the property owner and the surrounding neighbourhood for some time.
“I have been in recent contact with the property owner over their concerns with trespassers on the property,” Liggett said.
“They had previously signed a Trespass Order with the Waterloo Regional Police Service because of ongoing encampment problems while awaiting their development application to flow through the planning process. As the area councillor, I have been receiving calls and emails from the surrounding neighbourhood for the past few weeks.”
But as it turns out, there was a misunderstanding by the property owner on the frequency the annual order was to be renewed, which caused a delay in the process of the trespass removal. The situation tied the hands of Waterloo Regional Police Service in assisting the property owner in the removal of the encampment.
The Trespass Order would need to be renewed and then served personally to those at the encampment.
As long as those setting up at 55 Kerr remain there, a private property, the city’s hands are also tied.
“The city does not play a role in removal of encampments on private property,” Liggett said.
“This is the role of the property owner and the police. In the meantime as part of the process, WRPS has confirmed with Outreach that all of these people have been connected with supports and the campers were informed that the owner was looking to have their private property cleared.”