Community-led project proposes tiny homes for Kitchener's tent city residents

A tiny homes neighbourhood for the homeless may be coming to Kitchener sometime soon. Advocate Jeff Willmer is hoping A Better Tent City project comes to fruition in the next few months.

Build 15-20 tiny homes or shelters on 41 Ardelt Place in Kitchener, says advocate Jeff Willmer

A Better Tent City is a community project lead by Kitchener's Jeff Willmer. He said he'd been working on a tiny homes neighbourhood before the pandemic, and now hopes to have it built in a few months. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Building a tiny homes neighbourhood for Kitchener's homeless population has been a project Jeff Willmer has been working on since "well before" the COVID-19 pandemic, but the novel coronavirus crisis has provided a new imperative.

"We've sort of had to kick things into high gear and respond more quickly because when the whole community is directed to shelter in place and you don't have a place, that's a problem," he said.

"The sooner we can get the tiny homes or shelters built, the sooner people have a place where they can be."

The idea is to build 15 to 20 tiny homes or shelters at 41 Ardelt Place to give homes to some of those homeless people who are otherwise living in tent cities. It's a temporary place to live and a safe place to practice physical distancing.

"There are problems with tent cities because they are usually trespassing on someone's land, there's no toilets or a place to put your garbage or waste," Willmer said.

Willing host

Willmer said A Better Tent City would provide people with the necessities such as bathrooms, showers and a safe place to call home while they get back on their feet.

"Our concept of A Better Tent City would be to find land with a willing host and can provide basic facilities ... that would be the beginning of a better tent city."

And that willing host was Ron Doyle, who owns 41 Ardelt Place in Kitchener, an industrial property that houses LOT 42. He has been working closely with Willmer on the A Better Tent City project.

"The idea is to help them get ahead," Doyle said.

"They are all good people with a story. Why wouldn't we want to help out?"

Willmer said they are now able to start fundraising for the project and hopes to recruit more volunteers soon.