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Survey of homeless reveals options for sanctioned encampment

Survey of people living in three encampments in Cambridge and Kitchener suggests many would be willing to travel a half-hour or more to live in a site managed by regional staff
Region installs fence surrounding the encampment at 150 Main St. in Cambridge

As the Region of Waterloo continues its search for a suitable site for a future region-run encampment, a new survey suggests nearly half of those currently experiencing homelessness locally would consider it an option -- even if it's in a different city.

Last week, the region says staff surveyed just over 70 of about 100 people estimated to be currently living at three unsanctioned encampment sites. Those included the encampment at 150 Main St. in Cambridge and two in Kitchener, at 100 Victoria St. and in Victoria Park.

The survey, asking six questions focused on issues like location, access to services, transit, and the like. The findings of which were presented to regional council Wednesday evening.

"I guess the real question is, if we build it -- will they come?" said Peter Sweeney, the region's Commissioner of Community Services.

The results, potentially surprising to some both in the number of people who said they would consider a move and how far.

Across the board, more than four-in-ten said they would be willing to move to a hybrid shelter/outdoor encampment, even if it were in another one of the tri-cities or near-by communities.

Nearly seven-in-ten also said they'd be willing to walk 30-minutes or more between a managed site and a downtown core while nearly nine-in-ten said they'd consider taking some type of transit.

"So I think what that tells us is we have some options," said Sweeney. "We need to be considering an all-of-community response."

"And for some folks, moving from one area of the region to another, if that's the option provided to them, the majority would do so."

Sweeney did not, however, present council with any information about which sites region staff may currently be considering.