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No homeless shelter planned for Kinsmen Children’s Centre redevelopment: Region of Waterloo

Former Kinsmen Children's Centre in Cambridge seen on Oct. 12, 2023. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte) Former Kinsmen Children's Centre in Cambridge seen on Oct. 12, 2023. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte)
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The Region of Waterloo is clarifying that there is no plan to convert part of the old Kinsmen Children's Centre in Cambridge into a homeless shelter.

Several delegates attended a Wednesday night council meeting to voice their concern over the possibility of building an emergency shelter at the site.

"I live right in the Nantucket/Eagle Valley development and I was concerned with the schools and retirement homes that were there, the playgrounds, if there was such a homeless shelter to come," said one delegate.

Regional councillors were quick to clarify that there was never an intention to convert the former children's centre into a shelter.

"I'm not sure where the concept of the homeless shelter is coming from, because no one here would put a homeless shelter in that spot," said Coun. Rob Deutschmann. "It was never mentioned in the report as a homeless shelter."

In an administration and finance committee agenda from Oct. 10, a report reads that staff met with management teams to develop a proposed multi-use facility, which would include emergency shelter space on the second floor.

"I would suggest tonight that we take the homeless shelter component right off the table from the get-go," said Cambridge resident Nathan Whalen at the meeting. "That way we avoid the community concerns and accelerate this development proposal in the best way forward."

The proposal for the site includes adding paramedic services to the building, a number of affordable housing units, and other integrated services.

The facility operated as a regionally-owned childcare centre on Concession Road until 2021, when it was used as a temporary COVID-19 isolation centre for those experiencing homelessness.

Council voted to have staff explore the potential of redeveloping the site, and clarified it would not be used as a shelter.

"No decisions are being made this evening in terms of the final use of that site," said Peter Sweeney, commissioner of community services for the region. "That process would not only engage our colleagues at the City of Cambridge, but also include community consultation and engagement in that process."

Staff added the process will likely take years and will have plenty of opportunity for more consultations with the public.

PREVIOUS CONFUSION OVER WORDING

Earlier in October, Cambridge Mayor Jan Liggett expressed concern over plans to build affordable housing units at the Kinsmen Children's Centre site.

"Even though I support supportive housing – not at this particular site. I have strong, grave concerns about that," said Liggett. "This is right next door to an elementary school, they share the chain link fence."

Her comments resulted in some pushback from fellow councillors.

"To respond to councillor Liggett, who I usually do not disagree with, supportive housing means a person can afford to rent a house, but not at the prices of today's," said regional councillor Sue Foxton. "So it's 33 per cent of their income for housing, as supportive housing. These are not homeless people, anything else. Just wanted to clarify and you may have known that."

Despite the recommendation primarily using 'affordable' housing in the terminology of the report, it seems both 'affordable' and 'supportive' housing were mentioned during the meeting, which may have complicated the discussion.

Mayor Liggett said there is a difference between the two during an interview with CTV News.

"You need to understand there's a difference between affordable housing and supportive housing," Liggett said. "And I don't think people understand the difference between them. Affordable housing is one thing, I think it's a great opportunity if that can be all affordable housing and [for] families. That can be great."

With reporting from CTV Kitchener's Spencer Turcotte

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