Hybrid shelter near Waterloo-Wilmot border causing concerns for close neighbours

By CityNews Staff

Before it has even opened, a managed shelter planned for 1001 Erbs Road is already causing a stir.

A community meeting took place on Thursday, Jan. 26, where residents had the opportunity to voice concerns about a planned hybrid shelter, which will be the first of its kind in Waterloo.

The regionally sanctioned site will be operated by The Working Centre. 

A fence is all that separates Chris Field's property from the outdoor encampment, and he told the Mike Farwell Show on CityNews 570 Tuesday morning about the primary issues he brought forth at the meeting.

“I really had three concerns that I wanted to address. One was will there be security at the property, the vetting process of who gets in there, and then the third thing is do they allow drug use at the site.”

Field said he learned that drug use will in fact be allowed on site, and he says he can't tolerate that.

“I see the drugs as the major factor. If they're going to allow it to happen, the drug thing is going to do what the drug thing does, which is bring crime, bring prostitution, and bring trouble.”

Field has experience living in an area with a high homeless population, saying that he frequently helped out unsheltered individuals when he lived in downtown Hamilton. He also recalled the horrors of overdoses, a murder, and the needles that he would find everywhere.

Despite these concerns raised by Field, Joe Mancini, Director of The Working Centre, is adamant that people without homes are just looking for a warm place to stay.

“The people who do not have a place to live, they're not looking to cause trouble, they're just looking to have some kind of shelter. As long as there's good relationships and good dialogue, issues can be resolved all the time.”
The Working Centre currently manages St. John's Kitchen, as well as helps support 250 people in need of housing per night in Waterloo Region.

The Region of Waterloo was also recently denied permission to clear out an encampment on Victoria Street near St. John's Kitchen. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that clearing the encampment while failing to provide the residents sufficient housing options is a violation of charter rights. However, should the region develop enough affordable housing, they will be allowed to apply to terminate the declaration.

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