The number of people in Waterloo Region who are turning to shelters has increased by over 20 per cent in just two years – a jump that has one local shelter turning to motels to provide places for families.
That's the solution Mary's Place, a 60-bed shelter in Kitchener, has arrived it as it is confronted with more people in need of its services.
"Ten years ago, 20 years ago we tended to see single people. There were a lot of youth or older people who had mental illnesses or addictions," said Elizabeth Clarke, the CEO of the YWCA of Waterloo Region, which operates the shelter.
"We still see those people, but we see a lot of families whose needs are really economical. They’ve had a financial disaster, they don’t need a lot of other supports, they just need affordable housing," said Clarke in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Thursday.
In 2010, 2,849 people used shelters in Waterloo Region, a number that increased to 3,437 by 2012, says the region. That accounts for increase of 21 per cent.
Meanwhile, a report released Wednesday said that at least 200,000 Canadians are homeless in any given year, and that while the number of people accessing shelters hasn’t changed substantially, the average length of stay at shelter has gone up.
Clarke says the increase in people turning to shelters Waterloo region is because more families are homeless, and that it’s not uncommon for a family to live in a shelter for up to 40 days until they find suitable housing.
"Even though the recession hit a couple of years ago, there is a lag effect with homelessness. People don’t lose their jobs and become homeless the next day. They lose their jobs and exhaust their E.I. and have to take lower wage jobs and extend their credit and then they lose their housing," said Clarke.
Now that the economy has turned around, Clarke is hopeful that the stress on homeless shelters will begin to ease.