Regional chair distressed by removal of housing encampment in Kitchener

By Karis Mapp

Last Friday, a housing encampment was forcibly removed near Charles and Stirling Street in Kitchener. Residents of the un-sheltered community gathered some of their belongings and then watched the remainder of their items be removed by a front end loader.

Karen Redman, appeared on the Mike Farwell Show on CityNews 570 to voice her outrage.

“I found out about it on social media,” said the regional chair. “I think I speak on behalf of the community and certainly on all of council in saying that we are united in the reaction of distress of the image of machinery clearing the site of the encampment.”

While on the show on Monday, Redman also took the time to apologize on behalf of council for how the residents were treated with a lack of dignity. 

Since the incident, a formal investigation has been launched by CAO Bruce Lauckner to figure out exactly what transpired that day. 

“Mr. Lauckner has burnt up the phone lines all weekend to deal with this. I believe they're going to come back to council at their earliest opportunity to lay out some facts,” said Redman.

Redman also noted that Waterloo Region, as a whole, needs to do better when it comes to dealing with situations like this one.

“We're very lucky in our region that we have the talent and the know-how with our partners to meet the needs of homeless residents. We've always operated that we need to find them shelter and the long-term goal will always be that everyone has a safe and stable place to call home.”

According to Redman, there is a specific protocol that needs to happen when dealing with the removal of these encampments, but that did not happen in this particular situation. Luckily, all five residents of this community were able to find shelter elsewhere, but Redman stated that they didn't receive the proper supports normally given. 

Redman added that helping people find a place to live as the cold winter approaches, is definitely a priority for council. Although the budget has not yet been approved, council has invested significant dollars in creating housing that more people can afford. 

“We have gone from investing 50 new homes to 500 new homes. So 2,500 affordable housing units in 5 years,” said Redman. “About 1.5% levy as part of our budget will go in specifically to affordable housing in the partnerships and developers to help amplify that money.”

Redman also added that council needs to go back to senior levels of government to ask for help.

“We need more operating funds and some of those funds need to come through health care.”

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