Newest homeless shelter for men in downtown Kitchener has been full since it opened
Only shelter for men is at 84 Frederick St. in Kitchener
A new homeless shelter in downtown Kitchener opened last month and has been full almost every day since.
The shelter is at 84 Frederick Street. It's run by the Toronto-based non-profit Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP) organization and opened Dec. 6.
Aaron Deanes, the shelter's manager, said the men's-only facility can comfortably shelter 45 people with room to safely shelter an additional three people when there is an emergency need.
He said residents can also keep their service or support animals with them if they have proper documentation.
"It's essentially rows of about eight beds that go across the room," he said during a media tour of the facility Thursday. "We have five rows of about eight beds, with few slotted in to various spots, as best as we can. We're just making the most of this space."
The Region of Waterloo has been working with various community partners to address a growing need for shelter space for people experiencing homelessness. A point-in-time count conducted in September 2021 found more than 1,000 people in the region were experiencing homelessness.
In August, regional council unanimously agreed to change the way homelessness is addressed, which included expanding the region's transitional housing program, home-based support program and emergency shelter program.
The men who use the shelter have each signed a contract to ensure they will have guaranteed access to a bed for 30 consecutive days from 7 p.m. to 7:45 a.m.
During those 30 days, those using the shelter will also be required to work with case managers and find more permanent housing.
"Not every individual that has resided here has stayed that 30 days," Deanes explained. "There are people who have been here 30-plus days and there have been people who have stayed here for the emergency shelter component, which is one or two nights because they needed somewhere to stay in that period of time."
There are safety measures in place at the shelter to ensure the men are protected.
Staff members have equipped their air purifiers with HEPA filters to help limit the risk of aerosol transmission of viruses like COVID-19 or colds and flu.
Kelly-Anne Salerno, the region's assistant director of housing operations and administration, said residents who test positive will be moved to a COVID-19 isolation facility in Cambridge, run by the Cambridge Shelter Corporation, also known as The Bridges.
"If there are COVID cases, our community and shelter providers can refer them to that site, where they can stay through isolation, monitor their symptoms with the medical team there and then discharge them back to the shelter, if needed."
Future plans to stay open 24/7
SHIP hopes to soon open the shelter 24 hours a day, seven days a week instead of just providing beds overnight.
The organization is relatively brand new in Waterloo region, so it's currently working with regional partners to help build capacity in nearby shelters before expanding services itself.
Partnerships with restaurants like Tiny Home Takeout also help SHIP provide its residents with overnight food and snacks.
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