Skip to main content

WRPS spent nearly 18,000 hours responding to calls near shelters and encampments in 2023


A report going before the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board on Wednesday outlines how much time officers have spent responding to calls related to homelessness.

The report indicates it was requested by members of the board to examine the complex issue, and that police are often the first point of emergency contact for people experiencing homelessness and/or addiction.

According to the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness Report, put together by the Region of Waterloo, there’s been a 129 per cent increase in chronic homelessness since January 2020. The same report notes that there’s a disproportionately high rate of substance use among people experiencing homelessness.

In 2023, WRPS spent 17,887 hours responding to calls for service in the immediate areas around shelters and encampment locations.

Police say that's the equivalent of about nine full-time officer shifts.

In total there were 10,006 occurrences around shelters and encampments in 2023. Of those, 7,191 were to shelters and the other 2,815 were to encampments.

The most common call types were compassionate to locate (1,420), unwanted person (1,033), vehicle stops (691), proactive initiative (589) and theft under $5,000 (508).

Police say, while attending these calls, officers emphasize diversion, referrals and engagement. They also note that they work with numerous community partners and it’s something they plan to do more of in the future, to support individuals and reduce the need for continued police involvement.

Police say they are currently reviewing their strategies around drug enforcement, as well as improve health, social and public safety outcomes.

Since mid-2020, police have deprioritized the enforcement of simple possession of illicit drugs as standalone offenses, focusing instead on organized drug traffickers.

Charges laid for simple drug possession have decreased from 763 in 2020 to 337 in 2023, and police say the prevalence of opioid-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths have remained relatively stable across the same time period.

The report will be presented at the June 12 meeting of Police Services Board, at which time members are typically given the opportunity to comment and ask follow-up questions.

The full report can be found online. Top Stories


WEATHER TRACKER Rainfall, heat, smoke advisories in place across Canada

Large parts of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada are under weather warnings forecasting significant rainfall due to the remnants of Hurricane Beryl, while people in western Canada are experiencing sweltering heat. Some areas are also under air quality advisories as a result of wildfire smoke.

Stay Connected