New emergency shelter location sparking similar concerns as the old

By Casey Taylor

It's like the old saying, 'as one door closes, another one opens.'

A temporary emergency homeless shelter in Kitchener is on the move though it's new location is already sparking some similar concerns as the old.

The shelter operating out of the former Edith MacIntosh Child Care Centre through the summer is set to shift to the former Kitchener Schwaben Club on King St. E. near Highway 7/8 as of Thursday, though that location is once again prompting concern over its proximity to a school.

“It shouldn't be this close to school,” said one area local to CityNews 570. “I would suggest to the city to move it further away from the schools and the kids.”

“Although it is a good cause, there are pros and cons to everything,” said another local. “[But] they've got to go somewhere though, right?”

That is essentially the region's thought process as well.

“The key here was how fast we could move so we didn't have a gap in service and this location provided us the best opportunity to do that,” said Peter Sweeney, Commissioner of Community Services with the Region of Waterloo.

The region said the old Schwaben Club will offer space for up to 70 people with room to grow. With some renovations, Sweeney said it should also be able to stay open 24/7.

“We hope to get to a 24/7 operation sooner than later,” he said, adding though there are some other challenges — like staffing — involved in getting there.

Once again, much like the Edith MacIntosh shelter site, the new Schwaben Club location is meant to be temporary though the region has set a two-year clock which it said should also offer a little extra stability both for the Working Centre which will be in charge of operations and its patrons.

There are however already concerns, once again, over the proximity of this new location to Eastwood Collegiate Institute, one street over on Weber.

“To be specific, we are taking anything we can learn from the operation at Edith Mac,” Sweeney said. “Safety of the people who will be staying at that shelter and the people who live and work and go to school nearby will be always our number one priority.”

He said the region will be working with the Working Centre to install fencing, ensure the site is well-lit, safe, and clean, and should challenges arise it will also work with partners and the neighbourhood to address them.

“This is a challenge no matter where we offer these services,” Sweeney continued. “We're not going to be in a position where we can have the luxury of offering services to some of the most difficult-to-reach people in this community, some of the most marginalized people in this community, on a human-centred level, without doing that in our community.”

Meantime, the region has also now opened an application process aimed at identifying operators for three of its so-called 'Interim Housing Solutions', which include emergency shelters like this one, transitional housing, and the recently-approved 'Hybrid Shelter/Outdoor Model' similar to a region-run encampment.

The region said these are all part of the Interim Housing Solutions strategy aimed at responding “to the escalating growth of homelessness in Waterloo Region.”

The three-week tender window is set to close October 17, 2022.

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