The Region of Waterloo will soon make a decision on whether to fund a new emergency shelter pilot program.

The Emergency Shelter System (ESS) currently consists of seven facilities across the region, with 245 on-site spaces available plus an additional 30 overflow spaces. That brings the total to 270.

If capacity is reached at one site, clients are referred to another site until all are full. The remainder is put up in local hotels and motels.

On October 10th council approved Temporary Shelter Overflow (TSO) as an alternative, with 45 temporary beds at the YWCA on Frederick Street from November 1 to April 30, 2019.

Despite this option, the region says shelters are almost at full occupancy.

Hotels and motels are still being used at a rate of approximately 15 to 20 rooms a night.

In a new report they say: “The demand for shelter continues to be high, requiring the use of motel overflow when all other options including the TSO have reached capacity. It is expected that this will likely continue over the winter and potentially after the TSO is no longer available. A more coordinated response, with dedicated staffing, is needed.”

They also say that they can no longer manage the system which requires supervision 24 hours a day.

So they’re recommending a new emergency shelter pilot program created in partnership with the Cambridge Shelter Corporation (also known as The Bridges).

The cost to fund the one-year project is $244,741.

That money would be used to pay for four new workers to oversee the program, as well as office and administrative costs.

Staff members would connect clients with other services so they can find safe, stable housing. They would also coordinate with Ontario Works caseworkers to support clients with their financial, transportation and employment needs.

The project would allow the region to assess the ESS and decide how recent housing strategies are affecting capacity levels.

The region says there’s no money for the pilot program so they’re recommending that it be funded through the Tax Stabilization Reserve.

The proposal, once approved, will be referred to the Budget Committee for consideration.