The number of families and young children accessing emergency shelters in Waterloo Region has more than tripled since 2008, according to a wide-ranging report on shelter and housing.

The report was prepared by regional staff and released Friday afternoon.

Below are some of the key numbers highlighted in the report.

  • In Waterloo Region, the total number of overnight stays at emergency shelters, or bed nights, have increased from 63,277 in 2008 to 91,697 in 2012. This represents an increase of 45 per cent.
  • The number of people accessing emergency shelter has increased 24 per cent since 2008 — 3,447 people used it in 2012.
  • There has been a drastic rise in the amount of children from families accessing emergency shelters. In 2008, it was 105. In 2012, it was 420, accounting for a 300 per cent increase.
  • The number of women accessing emergency shelter has increased from 596 in 2008 to 795 in 2012, a 33 per cent spike.
  • Ontario’s minimum wage is not enough for people to meet the minimum affordable housing wage. In 2012, minimum wage was $10.25 and the minimum affordable housing wage for a bachelor apartment was $12.38.
  • A bachelor rental apartment is unaffordable for people reliant on social assistance alone. In 2012, an Ontario Works recipient’s housing allowance was $376, and a Ontario Disability Support Program recipient would get $479. The average rent for a bachelor unit is $644 per month.
  • The vacancy rate in Waterloo Region is at 2.6 per cent, which is just below what housing researchers consider a healthy rate. The region says as a result, this creates increased competition for fewer available housing units. 

"Research shows that communities will experience increased rates of homelessness two to three years after the beginning of a recession, due to the financial hardship caused by job loss and a lack of jobs available post-recession," the report concludes.

Regional councillor Sean Strickland says council has made significant efforts in trying to tackle the problem.

"We built 1000 new affordable homes with community partners, we're on the second phase of that, and soon we'll have 500 additional affordable housing units in the inventory," said Strickland. "But it's not quite enough. We're doing what we can based on the resources that we have but certainly in order to solve this more substantively, you need higher orders of government."

Waterloo Regional Council will receive the report for information at a meeting on Tuesday.