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Region debates plan for hybrid shelter

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The Region of Waterloo is staying the course with the plan for its hybrid shelter on Erbs Road, despite a request to create a separate plan identifying new locations to move it to.

The discussion was brought up at a Region of Waterloo Community and Health Services meeting Tuesday morning.

The current shelter at 1001 Erbs Road was given two years to operate using the current wastewater management solution. The holding tank on site is only approved to be there for two years. On Tuesday, Wilmot Mayor Natasha Salonen put forward a motion to create a plan for the shelter and explore new location options. She said she worried residents could be kicked out if no wastewater solution is available.

The Township of Wilmot would need to approve any extension for wastewater management at the site.

Regional staff said there is potential to connect a temporary sanitary line if needed, but creating a separate plan right now will cause too much strain for them. Staff said identifying new locations by this spring would take away from other work, including finding a location for a potential second hybrid shelter.

“That is a big ask and would detract both from the development of the overall plan to end chronic homelessness… [and] it would certainly detract any effort that we would have to scout out a location for a second one, which was directed to us by council in the business plan for 2024,” said Peter Sweeney, Commissioner of Community Services for the Region of Waterloo.

The region's hybrid shelter on Erbs Road features 50 cabins, each equipped with electricity, heating and air conditioning. A main cabin complex provides running water, washrooms, and space for meals. (CTV Kitchener)

Council debated the issue for a few hours on Tuesday. Some said they support getting a plan worked out right away. Others said it's premature, unfair to staff and would unfairly indicate to shelter residents that they will be moved.

In November, regional staff identified there was no plan for how to effectively wind down the shelter site. Salonen said a new site is needed so people currently living at the shelter have somewhere to go by spring of next year.

"I appreciate some of you think that this is premature. I, frankly, don’t because we don’t know what a wrap up on this looks like. I’m not necessarily saying that that wrap up means to not have this site and these 50 units, but we know that getting land takes time. We know that moving takes time,” Salonen said.

Regional staff said a plan to end chronic homelessness is expected to be presented to council in the spring and will include information about the Erbs Road shelter. However it will not include details about potential future locations the shelter could be moved to.

Salonen’s motion was ultimately defeated by council.

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