Kitchener-Waterloo

New, inclusive emergency shelter set to open in Kitchener 

The Region of Waterloo will open a new emergency overnight shelter in Kitchener this Friday. The new space operated by The Working Centre and will be open to people of all gender identities, couples and pets.

Space open to people of all gender identities, couples and pets

Several tents, including a blue tent as a focus, pictured on a plot of land.
The region says a new emergency shelter set to open Friday will offer overnight spaces for 60 people. Currently, more than 50 people are living in tents on a vacant lot on Victoria Street in Kitchener. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

A new emergency overnight shelter is set to open in Kitchener this Friday and it will be open to people of all gender identities, couples and pets.

The new space will be operated by The Working Centre and funded by the Region of Waterloo. The shelter will be located at 104 Stirling Avenue South, where the former Edith MacIntosh Child Care Centre was located.

The shelter will provide overnight stays for up to 60 people from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m., seven days a week.

The region said it decided to open the shelter in response to feedback it received from people with lived experience.

"Listening and responding to the needs of those experiencing homelessness is vital," regional Chair Karen Redman said in a news release on Tuesday. 

"While we have more work to do, this new shelter is a step in the right direction."

The new shelter is opening as temporary shelters at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and the YW in Kitchener are set to close. St Andrew's last night of operation is this Thursday and the YW's is June 29. 

Stephanie Mancini of The Working Centre said in the region's press release that they were grateful to St. Andrew's Church for providing shelter space through the winter.

"We feel it is important to continue to provide shelter space through the summer," Mancini said.

"As we work to increase the number of supportive housing units, shelter spaces that are welcoming and safe form an important base of stability for people."

Shelter system provides 'little stability' 

Last year, a point-in-time count found that more than 1,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Waterloo region. 

Currently, at least 50 people live in an encampment at 100 Victoria St., slated for eviction on June 30. 

A man pictured in front of several tents set up on a plot of land.
Michael Wosik has been homeless for at least two years. He's been living at the encampment on Victoria Street and said he has no plans to move. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Michael Wosik lives at the encampment and says creating more shelter space isn't going to make a dent in the growing homelessness issue.

"Sixty beds really isn't going to cut it," he told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo after the region announced the shelter's opening. 

"I believe that the funds that are just thrown at it are better used to actually put people into homes. None of us here are looking for a handout. We're looking for a hand up," he added.

Wosik said many people also intentionally choose not to live in shelter environments for several reasons.

"It's a bed for the night and it provides very little stability ... Your possessions are at risk. It's controlled chaos. We are lining up for everything, you line up for food, you line up for the bathroom," he said.

Wosik said he plans to stay at the encampment past June 30. 

"Right here in this community, a tent city, we're as free as we can be," he said.

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