Mike Harris, MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga, announced on Jan. 12 that the Government of Ontario will provide $8.5 million dollars to the ShelterCare program run by the House of Friendship.
With this support, the organization has purchased 190 Weber Street North. The new location is set to be open and operational by the Summer of 2022. There will be space for 100 adult men who are experiencing homelessness to use for housing, health care and recovery needs. Individuals will have much-needed stability and care for the foreseeable future.
“With ShelterCare’s proven track record, it was a top priority of mine to secure this funding and assist House of Friendship’s ongoing work for the community,” Harris said.
“This capital investment will provide wrap-around care and accommodation for the most vulnerable individuals in Waterloo Region.”
Founded in 1939, the House of Friendship offers shelter, food, and addiction treatment for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. On Nov. 30, 2021, the organization had to temporarily close its ShelterCare location in Guelph due to an expired lease. In the interim, 26 men stayed at the former House of Friendship shelter building on Charles Street in Kitchener. This new ShelterCare location comes as a region-wide response to homelessness in the Kitchener-Waterloo community.
“How can we be expected to reduce homelessness in our community if we do not address the underlying health issues?” John Neufeld, Executive Director of the House of Friendship, said.
News of a stable center of operations comes as a great reprieve for both staff and participants who have moved four times since the pandemic started. House of Friendship’s new location is set to provide healthcare for individuals with chronic physical and mental illnesses, a safe-use center, mental health counselling, and in-house programming like art and music therapy.
“I wouldn’t have gotten treatment for alochol dependence or housing if it wasn’t for House of Friendship,” Collin, a former ShelterCare participant, said.
Many of the shelter’s participants, like Collin, faced significant challenges in their lives, ranging from trauma to brain injuries to addiction and abuse. As participants stay in the shelter, they are connected with a support worker who can help them on their journey to become housing ready, and eventually find permanent housing.
“This funding has been an intensive effort between myself, my team, the House of Friendship and the City of Waterloo,” Harris said.
The collective efforts of both the municipal and provincial government have put in motion to purchase and renovation of 190 Weber Street North to meet participants needs. Across the region of Waterloo, shelter program participants are registered in a database system that is used nationally for those experiencing homelessness. The ShelterCare program is staffed 24/7 with team members who know participants and their stories, and are equipped to support them.
“The pandemic continues to show us that permanent housing is an important need that keeps everyone safe,” Karen Redman, chair of the Region of Waterloo, said.
From 2020-21, the City of Waterloo was also allocated over $3.6 million in provincial COVID-19 financial relief funding for municipalities and over $6.5 million through the joint federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement to help address ongoing COVID-19 operating costs, ensuring the delivery of critical services.