Opening of region run outdoor shelter in Waterloo moved to March

By Jonathan Strom

The Region of Waterloo's first outdoor shelter at 1001 Erbs Road in Waterloo will be opening later than previously expected. 

At a regional council meeting on Wednesday, Peter Sweeney, commissioner of community services with the Region of Waterloo, said the shelter will not be ready to open in early February as originally anticipated. Instead, it will likely open sometime in mid-to-late March.

The shelter will have 50 cabins as well as a community space. 

“It is that space that is taking a little bit more time to get up design and now work some approval processes with CSA,” Sweeney said. 

Sweeney said it is important to ensure that the community space is one that best fits the needs of the people who will be living at the shelter. 

“Ensuring we have places to have private and dignified conversations, whether that's related to housing, or social work or mental health and addictions has required a bit of rethink in terms of what that community space needs to look like,” he said. 

Sweeney added that he is aware of the need for shelter space, especially during the winter. However, work is continuing to ensure those living in encampments have housing. 

“We're continuing to work on a daily basis on service connections there,” he said. “And, then with the opening of the new House of Friendship system, we will be adding 75 new beds to the system.”

Councillors at the meeting said there was no reason to apologize for the delay.

“I think it's important for everyone to remember we're doing something new,” said Regional Councillor Jim Erb. “We're in uncharted territory, and lessons to be learned along the way.”

The shelter has previously drawn concern because of its location. It is a 20-minute walk to the nearest public transportation. 

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