Work underway to combat muddy conditions at Kitchener encampment
Pathways are starting to form at the encampment at the corner of Victoria and Weber streets in Kitchener as crews work to address mud brought on by spring weather.
Crews could be seen at the encampment on Monday and Tuesday installing gravel pathways for encampment residents.
Jason Paul, a resident at the encampment for the last year, said navigating through the mud has been tough.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate because I’ve got some mulch to put in front of my place, and I stay kinda close to the sidewalk, but the mud definitely –volunteers, the workers, and everyone – it’s a hassle,” Paul said. “Even going to the washroom is a hassle.”
The encampment has seen the number of residents living there significantly drop off, with Paul estimating the population now sits around 25.
At one point, the estimated population at the encampment was as high as 100.
Renee Dunkley, another encampment resident said dealing with mud on top of cold weather has been difficult.
“A lot of us don't have proper footwear,” Dunkley said.
“When our feet get soaking wet and full of mud and they freeze at night, it makes it even that much harder to be comfortable and to live.”
Dunkley is happy to see some mud mitigation happening.
“We all have a lot of belongings as you can see and we have to store things outside and they all get ruined and there's nowhere to put them, it's just mud,” Dunkley said.
The Region of Waterloo declined an interview to provide more details on the work being done, but said in an email: “As part of ongoing maintenance of the site, facilities staff were on hand to add some gravel and conduct regular garbage pickup.”
HYBRID SHELTER TO OPEN SOON
The work comes as the region prepares to open its first ever hybrid shelter on Erbs Road.
Earlier this month, Region of Waterloo commissioner of community services Peter Sweeney said the region is targeting an April 15 opening date.
While the shelter is opening soon, it does not necessarily mean those living at the Victoria and Weber Street encampment will be moving.
The hybrid shelter will be managed by The Working Centre and house to up to 50 people, each with their own small cabin equipped with electricity, heating and air conditioning. A main cabin complex will provide running water, washrooms, laundry services and space for meals.
The site is on regionally-owned land at 1001 Erbs Road on the border of the City of Waterloo and the Township of Wilmot.
Joe Mancini, director of The Working Centre, said they’ve identified about one hundred people who could potentially reside in the homes.
“There is a priority for the individuals who are in encampments around the region,” Mancini said.
He said early discussions are underway.
“At this point, we're talking with individuals, but we're not offering invitations because I think that's more appropriate once the site is set up and people will be able to go look at it and imagine themselves in this new community," Mancini said.
As for Paul, he says he’s already interested in one of the tiny homes.
“I’m hoping that that’s the next step,” Paul said.
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