KITCHENER -- A local pilot project is turning unused space into homes for the community's most vulnerable population.

A group has created A Better Tent City, which offers cabins and tents for people who may otherwise be homeless.

Kimberly McCrea has lived in one of the cabins for the past four months.

"We get to make our own little house," she said.

Prior to moving into the cabin, McCrea said she'd been living on the streets for the past four years.

The cabins have given McCrea, and others, a safe place to live.

"I'm glad to be here because I had nowhere to go," resident Diana Myers said.

The space has 12 one-bedroom cabins and dozens of tents.

"We've built bed frames and mattresses were donated by a local manufacturer," volunteer Jeff Willmer said. "There's insulation in most of them."

A nearby event space also gives the residents access to running water, electricity and food.

"It's nice to have a shower and a bathroom you can use, so it's great," Myers said.

Willmer partnered with the owner of Lot 42, Ron Doyle, to help people who can't or won't go to shelters.

"The folks that are usually considered undesirables, those are the ones that end up here, because they have nowhere else to go," Willmer said. "Here, they seem to be able to rise to the challenge of living respectfully and community doing their share to keep it orderly."

The City of Kitchener has waived Lot 42's zoning bylaw to allow residential living to support the one-year pilot project. It's also provided $5,000 in funding.

"It's going to be essential that there's immediate access provided for emergency responders, that all of the life safety measures are installed," Kitchener Mayor Barry Vrbanovic said.

Residents said a feeling of safety and comfort make A Better Tent City a good place to live, residents said.

"It's good to have a place like this, knowing that someone cares about the homeless and wants to be there for the homeless," Myers said.

"We have a community going on, we all help each other and I think it's awesome, McCrea said.

The rent is around $400 a month, but Willmer said residents haven't been paying since the project started in April.

Rent payments will go towards covering the cost of utilities, maintenance and repairs.