New temporary shelter to open in Kitchener during COVID-19 pandemic

A new temporary shelter will open in Kitchener this week that will provide a space for people who are homeless to go day or night.

People accessing shelter will be screened regularly for illness and symptoms

A person sleeps in an empty storefront in downtown Kitchener. The region has set up a new temporary shelter in downtown Kitchener that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A new temporary shelter will open this week in Kitchener to give people who are homeless, or on the street, a place to go — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The region announced on Wednesday the A.R. Kaufman YMCA in Kitchener will become a temporary shelter. It was a fitness centre until it closed on March 15, so the facility has showers and other amenities people can use.

The region's chief administrative officer Mike Murray said he expects the shelter will open on Thursday or Friday.

There is currently a temporary shelter at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in downtown Kitchener.

"When the shelter opens this week, it will initially accommodate people who are now accessing the St. Mark's overflow space," the region said in a release.

The shelter will also be able to take overflow from other shelters once there's more staffing in place.

Regular screening

The region said people who go to the YMCA shelter will be regularly screened for COVID-19. 

If a person shows symptoms, they will be taken to a fully-staffed isolation space.

Last weekend, the region announced other measures to help people who are homeless.

Those include helping shelters stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and opening public washrooms in Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge.

The work being done by regional staff was recognized by regional Coun. Elizabeth Clarke during a council meeting on Tuesday.

"I see them working 12 and 16-hour days, I see them not taking days off, and I see the things that they're accomplishing," Clarke said of staff. "In 35 years of working in social services, I've never seen the effort like I'm seeing now."


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