53 people living at three main encampments in Waterloo region: Report
Region of Waterloo staff are providing an update on the three main encampments in the region and revealing the number of people still living at those sites.
An information report that is scheduled to go before regional council on Wednesday provides details on the region’s efforts to help transition people from the three encampments into shelter spaces or other forms of housing.
According to the report, there are 53 people living rough at the three sites the region has termed “high-risk,” with 17 living at 100 Victoria St., 8 at Roos Island in Kitchener and 28 at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.
“Particularly on regional land we have two large unsanctioned and what we feel are unsafe encampments,” said Peter Sweeney, the commissioner of community services with the Region of Waterloo.
The region said people who met eligibility criteria had an option to meet with House of Friendship staff to possibly obtain a space at the emergency shelter on Weber Street in Waterloo or the Erb's Road outdoor shelter.
“About half of the people who were living in the three large encampments in Waterloo region on March first, have accepted offers of shelter either at Erb's Road or at the House of Friendship,” Sweeney said.
Six of the people living at 100 Victoria St. in Kitchener moved to the outdoor shelter on Erb’s Road and five declined all offers and plan to remain on site.
Four of the people on Roos Island in Kitchener moved to the outdoor shelter and two declined all offers and plan to remain on site.
At 150 Main St. in Cambridge, nine people moved to the outdoor shelter on Erb’s Road and seven declined all offers and plan to remain on site.
The region said the cost of services to the unsanctioned encampments totaled $267,000 from January to April 2023 and comes out of the operating budget.
“Staff will continue working with outreach partners to offer individualized supports to those individuals remaining at the three high-risk encampments, as well as to those living rough at all encampments across Waterloo Region,” the report said.
The information report goes before regional council at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
ENCAMPMENT RESIDENT SPEAKS OUT
Scott is one of the five encampment residents on Victoria Street who turned down the outdoor shelter in Waterloo.
“They're sea cans with a door on them with one window, which is on the door and it just doesn't feel safe to me. It feels like I'm in an institution again,” he told CTV News.
He said he isn’t of a fan of the rules laid out there either.
“No visitors. So any support from your family at all, you can't have anybody come and visit you which I think is ridiculous,” Scott said.
When he said “family” he is referring to his fellow encampment residents who have become part of his support system. He said he doesn’t want to leave behind anyone who may need help.
“There will be a time when I leave, but I want to make sure my other family has a place to go first,” Scott said.
The region said they understand that not everyone wants to move.
“And if people are choosing not to take us up on some of those services and choosing to live outside, I think we have to acknowledge that,” Sweeney said.