Kitchener-Waterloo

House of Friendship gets $8.5M to purchase former Comfort Inn for 24/7 shelter

The House of Friendship will be using the former Comfort Inn Hotel in Waterloo as its new shelter space after the organization received $8.5 million in funding from the province.

Lacking space, House of Friendship almost shut down all operations in November

Kitchener's House of Friendship has received $8.5 million from the province to purchase the former Comfort Inn Hotel, which will serve as their new Shelter care location this spring. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The House of Friendship is purchasing the former Comfort Inn in Waterloo and converting the building into a full-time shelter, that will support 100 men. 

The Ontario government announced $8.5 million in funding for the House of Friendship on Wednesday, to purchase the hotel on Weber Street. House of Friendship executive director John Neufeld said the hotel will undergo some renovations before a planned opening this spring.

"We will be doing come construction to some of the spaces so that it's not just rooms," said Neufeld. That includes treatment rooms, office and places for people to gather.

"I think the hotel is ideal to do that," Neufeld said during an announcement Wednesday morning.

This past year was a difficult one for the shelter as it struggled to find a permanent space. A fire in February, 2021 forced the men to move out of the Inn of Waterloo. Temporary accommodations were found in Guelph but then in November, House of Friendship was almost forced to close its men's shelter entirely. The organization was able to find a temporary shelter location and housing for 70 men.

Neufeld said it was then that he sent out an "SOS email" to Kitchener-Conestoga Progressive Conservative MPP Mike Harris. 

"When I heard there was an opportunity to assist the House of Friendship in continuing to provide this crucial program to our community, I had to get involved," Harris said Wednesday.

Neufeld said House of Friendship will restart its 24/7 Shelter Care program once the new location opens in Waterloo, noting the program has been successful in helping the men they serve find housing and help their overall well-being. 

Region to fund shelter

Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman said the municipal government will provide funds to keep shelter going.

"It will be enough to have operational costs covered, as well as any financial obligations for the acquisition of the facility," she said.

The $8.5 million in provincial funding is through Ontario's Social Services Relief Fund. The Shelter Care program provides those staying in the shelter with meals and wrap around services like addiction treatment and mental health supports 24/7. 

The House of Friendship will be taking over the former Comfort Inn on Weber Street in Waterloo, Ont. Renovations will happen in the coming months to include treatment rooms, an office and places for people to gather. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

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