Kitchener-Waterloo announces new housing for single mothers facing homelessness

The Kitchener-Waterloo region plans to have ten new affordable housing units made available next year for single mothers experiencing chronic homelessness.

The project is being led by YW Kitchener-Waterloo. The group was provided property by the city of Kitchener last year, as well as federal funding, to build 41 new affordable housing units for chronically homeless women.

Those units are expected to open later this year, while the unused space is to be used for the recently announced ten additional units.

While it was first expected to be only eight new units, changes to their designs allowed another two to be incorporated.

Elizabeth Clarke, CEO of YW Kitchener-Waterloo, said that the freeze in evictions, which began early last year, decreased the number of people relying on shelter systems. As the freeze ended at the start of 2022, she expects many more individuals to be facing eviction.

“There are an awful lot of evictions, close to 2,000, that are sitting there at the [Landlord and Tenant Board] waiting to be heard,” she said.

“It’s taking a while for that process to play itself out but we’re certainly seeing increasing numbers of families using our shelter systems.”

Clarke suggested that  lack of  employment during the pandemic made it difficult for a lot of people, including single mothers, to earn a stable income throughout last year.

The ten new units are expected to begin construction in May, with a presumed completion date in October.

Clarke said that reception to the new units being built has been largely positive. The public’s opinion on homelessness in general has become more accepting over time.

“I’m really quite pleased to see how much people’s awareness—not just awareness but understanding of the factors that cause homelessness, and empathy—has increased,”  Clarke said.

“It’s not that there’s nobody with concerns, but I think people are much more welcoming of these services.”

Clarke further noted that the project was just one step in combating homelessness in the region. 

The announcement comes during what may be the coldest time of the year during a surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that has affected many homeless shelters in Ontario.

Shelters in Kitchener-Waterloo have faced staff shortages among outbreaks, with some struggling to maintain their services.  

“We’ve done things like, in our women’s shelter, had management staff volunteering and coming in and working just because we have so many of our own staff who have been off sick or are isolating,”  Clarke said.

She noted that any volunteers would likely be of great help to their local shelter services.

“It’s not an easy place to work but I think most of the shelters will have a lot of support for those who are ready to [volunteer].”

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