Councillor Erb asking regional staff to look at possible locations for second outdoor managed encampment site

One regional councillor is asking regional staff to begin looking at potential new sites for a second managed outdoor encampment site.

The first managed outdoor encampment was opened in April located at 1001 Erbs Road in Waterloo.

Jim Erb is the regional councillor representing Waterloo and he tells the Mike Farwell Show Monday that the number of people who are still experiencing homelessness is increasing.

“I don’t think we will be able to build permanent housing fast enough to solve that problem,” he said. “We’ve proved that with our Erbs Road site that we can create some stability for people who are living homeless so I think – to me – the next step to consider to another or two more locations for a hybrid shelter in the region.”

He added until the necessary housing is provided, the region needs to look at better options other than tents at the corner of busy intersections in core areas like Victoria and Weber or along riverbanks in the rural areas of our region.

“It’s a matter of timing,” said Erb. “The people we are trying to help deserve to live in facilities [like the managed outdoor encampment], I think this is a measure we need to recognize the reality of how fast this homelessness situation is increasing and the time it takes to build a permanent, affordable housing to stay in. I think all of our goals are to create this permanent housing where we can transition people into but until that time comes, we have to look at other opportunities,” said Erb.

He added that after the region opened the first location, it was planned for regional staff to review it in four months. Staff is expected to provide a review of the Erbs Road location in the coming weeks.

“It’s been a life-changing experience for those who are living there,” he said. “70 per cent of the respondents who live there, feel much safer. Simple things that we take for granted like a lock and secure place to keep our belongings is appreciated. Some people have been moved into permanent housing. By-and-large, I would consider it a success and all the more reason we would look at other sites.”

Erb said that the longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost us in other way if the region doesn’t find a safer place for those experiencing homelessness.

“It’s going to cost us in health care, it’s going to cost us in policing, it’s going to cost us in so many different kinds of ways that the least we can do is provide a place for people to be safe. It’s no question this is going to be a big ticket item in the budget, but these people deserve a place to be housed safely and I think the community is committed to that. I’m confident that we are going to include it in the budget and move forward on it.”

Erb said that the region needs to keep advocating with the federal and provincial governments for the adequate funding to support the problem.

“We don’t think in Ontario that we are getting that kind of support from the provincial government that other provinces get,” he said. “There is a strong commitment from staff and council that we will continue to do the advocating.”

Strategic partnerships with community partners is also something Erb said the region can lean on to secure ongoing services that care for people who are living or get transitioned to supportive housing.

“They are the ones that bring the expertise to the table in caring for people and provide ongoing services,” he said, “the faith communities are becoming an integral part of finding solutions for housing people particularly supportive housing.”

Erb said he is looking forward to seeing the review report from staff and is confident that there will be support from his council colleagues of trying to find more locations for another managed outdoor encampment.

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