Region removes encampment at 150 Main in Cambridge

By CityNews Kitchener Staff

By Monday morning, there’s not even a trace of litter at the site of what used to be the encampment for people living with homelessness at 150 Main Street in Cambridge.

The site, at a Region of Waterloo office building, was taken down at the end of last week.

Commissioner of public services, Peter Sweeney, said the encampment at 150 Main St. in Cambridge was closed Thursday, “With the last few people who were there taking us up on offers of alternative shelter.”

And given that it was always considered unsafe and “not a great place for people to live,” Sweeney said they decided to close it up and reclaim the parking lot.

Sweeney said they have no plans to ever let people come back or set up a new camp there.

“We do recognize of course that chronic homelessness is still an issue in this community. And people are still choosing to live outside and to live rough and to live in other encampments, and we’ll continue to try to support people the best we can where they’re at.”

He said people living at 150 Main “over the last year have been supported in various ways to transition into more safe and appropriate living conditions.”

Those include traditional indoor shelters, time in motels, and the region’s new hybrid shelter on Erbs Road by the landfill.

He added some of the residents left on their own.

Sweeney said the 150 Main camp was always a risky place to be and was never sanctioned.

He said sometimes it was unsafe for the people living there, and “over the last year we had seen and experienced a number of really challenging and dangerous behaviour that made it really untenable and really difficult, not only for the people who were choosing to live there and trying to do so safely, but certainly for the people who work nearby, and of course the neighbourhood immediately adjacent to 150 Main.”

He added, “It was a challenging environment.”

For example, Sweeney said there were multiple incidents involving weapons, including  “a person wielding an axe, making threatening behaviour, starting fires — it was not a safe space.”

Several locals have reacted to the empty site.

“I think we need a better solution than an encampment,” said Norm. “I get that those are not safe and healthy places for [people experiencing homelessness] to be but without a solution, what options do they have? It seems like nobody wants it in there backyard.”

“I feel bad for them,” said another. “I don’t know where they are going to go.”

“Basically the way the wiped them out like that… it’s ridiculous,” said Dee, who told CityNews that he had family in the encampment. “They just come and start ploughing their stuff out of there. How do you do that to somebody?”

Dee added that some people have found temporary shelter in hotels but he doesn’t know where the others have gone.

A large section of the parking lot used to be the location for a small tent city, with up to 50 people living there.

The site was taken down by the Region of Waterloo, not by the City of Cambridge.

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