Kitchener-Waterloo

Temporary shelter in downtown Kitchener church closes Monday

The temporary shelter at St. Marys Roman Catholic Church is set to close Monday. The Region of Waterloo is scheduled to begin providing long term shelter Monday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in downtown Kitchener. It will have 45 overnight spaces available for people in need.

'It was really incredible,' outreach co-ordinator says

People who have no where to sleep have been able to go to St. Marys Catholic Church in downtown Kitchener for the past couple of weeks where the church set up a temporary shelter. That shelter is set to close on Monday. St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Kitchener's core will open a shelter while the Bridges Shelter in Cambridge will act as an overflow site. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A temporary homeless shelter set up at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Kitchener is set to close on Monday.

Opening the church doors was an initiative of The Working Centre, which worked in collaboration with a group called the Inner City Health Alliance.

It's a group of non-profits that took action after the temperature dropped and a significant amount of snow fell on the region on Nov. 11.

Since that time, the church's outreach co-ordinator ​​​​​Rianne Rops says the number of homeless who took temporary shelter increased from the first night when only 60 showed up.

"I would say we averaged about 100 people a night," Rops said. "We've, to date, had 196 different individuals come use our space. But not all of them are there at once. And about 40 of them are youth."

The number of young people was the biggest shock for Rops. She said many of them were concerned about what was going to happen after Nov. 25 because they have nowhere to go and they were afraid of freezing to death.

A message of thanks in the snow for shelter. Rianne Rop, Outreach Coordinator at St. Marys Roman Catholic Church in downtown Kitchener says "someone had written a massive thank you on the church grounds just out of footprints tracking in the snow." (Provided photo: Rianne Rop)

Region sites to open

St. Mary's received funding support from the region to run the last-minute program.

The Region of Waterloo is scheduled to begin providing long term shelter Monday at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in downtown Kitchener. It will have 45 overnight spaces available for people in need.

An overflow site will be available at the Bridges Shelter in Cambridge and there is a search for a third site. 

St. Mary's can't be an additional site as they'll be out of commission for a number of months for a scheduled renovation that starts in early December, Rops said.

But she wants the area to be available next year.

"In the future long term, we want to be key players in in supporting whatever gaps are going on downtown," Rops said.

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