Sanctioned Campsite Gets Regional Council Approval

A sanctioned encampment will become a reality in our region.

The regional council unanimously approved measures to tackle homelessness, including authorizing a first-ever regionally run camp.

Regional staff describe it as a “managed hybrid shelter/outdoor model”.

“Imagine an environment where… there are support staff. There is some consideration of how many people are there. There are rules in place. There is a connection to the eligibility list , in terms of ensuring for those who need the extra supports, we have these outlines, that staff are involved in one way or another,” said Community Services Commission Peter Sweeney during a regional council meeting on Thursday.

Regional Councilor Elizabeth Clarke described the housing option as “explicitly temporary” and “not the solution to homelessness”.

The region’s interim homelessness response plan also includes: expanding the transitional housing program, expanding in-home supports to help people access affordable housing, and creating more spaces in emergency shelters.

Council delegates on Thursday supported the measures, but also pointed to the irony of the region’s efforts to evict Weber and Victoria’s encampment in Kitchener.

In July, the region filed court documents seeking a court order, arguing that residents are violating a bylaw on land owned by the region.

“You can’t claim to be working on behalf of these people for their welfare while suing them,” Megan Snyder said.

“I urge you to stop the legal petition. The petition is inconsistent with the tone and intent of this new approach the region is proposing,” Robert Deutschmann said.

“As we currently have our legal action against the encampment, unfortunately this is all for show,” Brooklin Wallis said.

Kevin White told advisers the court case continues the criminalization of homelessness.

Regional staff estimate the cost of the region’s interim homelessness response plan to be over $10.2 million.

“It certainly creates a very challenging budget for us as we go deeper into the 2023 budget process,” Chief Financial Officer Craig Dyer said.

Councilors have expressed concern about how the region will pay for the plan.

“To me, it feels like the upper levels of government have been absent from action, not hearing or understanding this humanitarian crisis that so many urban centers across Ontario are experiencing,” said Regional Councilor Jim Erb.

The region plans to advocate with provincial and federal governments for “progressive, sustainable and predictable funding to support interim and long-term solutions to end homelessness.”

“What angers me is that the province is not meeting its obligations,” said regional councilor Tom Galloway.

“We have to do it for our community, for our citizens who need that level of service. But it’s not fair, in terms of where the money is coming from.”

Elna M. Lemons