KITCHENER -- The provincial government is providing the Region of Waterloo with $6.5 million to help protect the area's most vulnerable from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will help people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.

The region will receive total of $6,521,349 in social services relief funding, which will help increase capacity at emergency shelters and support modular housing units on surplus land, the province said in a news release Monday.

“Our government is committed to supporting the work the Region of Waterloo and their agency partners do in our community to protect our most vulnerable,” MPP Mike Harris said in a news release.

“This $6.5 million provincial investment addresses the immediate need to add additional spaces in our local emergency shelters and also supports the Region’s plan to create more permanent housing on surplus lands."

“This funding will go a long way in supporting those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness," said MPP Amy Fee in the release. “Our government is working hand in hand with our partners, like the Region of Waterloo and our local agencies, to make sure they have the tools and flexibility they need to keep these members of our community safe."

In the release, Regional Chair Karen Redman said the funding will help with immediate and long-term needs for people who don't have a home.

“By nearly doubling the capacity within our shelter system, we will ensure that everyone has a safe place to stay and will work to end chronic homelessness by investing in permanent housing that can be built quickly and cost effectively," she said.

Monday's announcement is part of a $510-million investment by the Ontario government to help protect the province's most vulnerable by supporting shelters, creating housing units, expanding rent support and creating long-term housing solutions.