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Region of Waterloo looking for new location for emergency shelter

Beds in the region’s shelters were used 107,340 last winter.
Beds in the region’s shelters were used 107,340 last winter. Graham Hughes/ The Canadian Press Images

The Region of Waterloo is looking into new options for where to place an emergency homeless shelter in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge after last year’s site is no longer available.

A report prepared by region staff says that the shelter operated by YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo is no longer an option because the organization has converted the space into a youth employment centre.

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The space had provided 45 beds from Nov. 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019, that were available when the 245 beds at the region’s permanent shelters would fill up.

Two winters ago, the House of Friendship operated a temporary space at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Kitchener which had 70 beds but it is also no longer an option.

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“During the winter months, an overflow response is crucial due to the heightened risk of staying outdoors,” states the report by staff.

It also points out the need for temporary shelters as there were 107,340 bed nights last winter, a drastic increase over the 88,511 bed nights during the previous winter. (Those figures derive from a count of the nights that shelter beds were in use.)

The report says the region spent close to $1 million last winter using motels as an overflow option while the beds at the YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo shelter cost $298,235.

The new space will need to have a minimum 45 beds, be in close proximity to other shelters, serve all gender identities and be more cost-effective than using motels as an overflow option.