Local councillor responds to new concerns over new encampment in Waterloo

By Casey Taylor

Another homeless encampment is quickly becoming cause for concern among some locals in Waterloo.

It's located in a green-space tucked away on city property near Columbia and Weber streets and the local councillor, Diane Freeman, said she does understand the concern and frustration – but on a city level, there's not much she can do.

“We're trying to work with the individual to try and get them the wrap-around services from the region,” the Waterloo Ward 4 councillor said. “But my tools as just a city councillor to leverage that are incredibly limited.”

Despite that, Freeman said she's been on and off the phone with city and regional staff about the issue every day, raising many of the same concerns as local residents – including piles of garbage that continue to build up. 

“We've taken truck-loads of garbage out of there, but more arrives,” she said, adding it's not uncommon for people experiencing homelessness to scavenge for survival. “And so as they sort through all these things, the piles of 'material' continue to grow.”

“When people travel to the site, neighbours look at it during the day, it appears that it is getting much worse and it's so, so hard.”

Meantime, with the weather continuing to grow colder and colder, Freeman said there are growing fire concerns as well.

“I know there are fires happening in the space pretty much daily,” she said. “And I know people are worried about that, they're worried about potential expansion of the fire or the fire getting out of control.”

“I understand safety's a concern, I understand the neighbours are frustrated and angry, honestly — we literally have all hands on deck.”

Freeman said she has also been trying to organize an emergency meeting with the mayor, regional councillors, and region staff to hopefully find a solution.

She said she expects that meeting to be held on Monday.

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