Outdoor photo of the tents and trees in the homeless encampment located near Victoria Street and Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario.


In early April, the Community and Health Services Committee had a meeting with regional councillors who voted in favour of the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness (The PECH). This plan was a joint effort created by the Region of Waterloo staff in partnership with the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region (SDCWR). Although the plan must go through one more round of voting from regional councillors to be approved, it brings forth a number of nuanced and thoughtful approaches to ending chronic homelessness in the region.   

The mission statement of the PECH presents as a living document detailing a sustainable and actionable method of ending chronic homelessness in the Waterloo Region through promoting collaboration in the community and fostering shared responsibility for solutions.  

“The Region of Waterloo’s Vision Statement outlines an aspirational future state—a  

compassionate community that cares for all people, stewards the land for future  

generations and where everyone has the opportunity to live a good life. The work of  

bringing about this future state is deeply rooted in our efforts to end chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region,” the report reads.   

The PECH has a vision of a collaborative approach where communities unite to build relationships and collectively address challenges through shared responsibility for solutions. These solutions will be done in an integrated, inclusive, adaptive, responsive and sustainable ecosystem.   

The methodology used in the co-creation of this plan relied heavily on the Lived Expertise Prototyping Project by the SDCWR rather than being solely based on the academic research and investigation into homelessness that academia tends to conduct. The importance of lived expertise is that it entails established networks and trusting relationships. The PECH came to fruition through monthly round tables beginning in June 2023, and formulates an approach to help the Waterloo Region reach their end goal of functional zero homelessness by 2030.   

According to the PECH, chronic homelessness is up 129 per cent since January 2020, with an average yearly increase of 28 per cent. On a high level, there are many reasons for this, such as the fact that the current set of resources available is not capable of addressing the increasing number of individuals needing support. Other primary reasons behind the consistent growth in chronic homelessness include leadership and governance’s underwhelming response to the issue of homelessness, the hyper-financialized capitalist model of housing and the lack of a lived expertise model being integrated into the current response to homelessness. The Plan showcases shocking statistics and direct quotes from participants who are currenctly experiencing homelessness.   

The process of mapping a solution to chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region is illustrated by the Tree Analogy introduced by Lived Experts. This analogy stresses the need to intervene at different levels of our systems and communities to achieve lasting change because addressing surface issues leads to temporary fixes, which perpetuate the status quo.   

Furthermore, four high level interventions must take place to foster a solution. This includes broadening our current housing/prevention support continuum, promoting community-driven system leadership, centering lived expertise and equity-owed groups, and defining and combining the housing first and human-rights approaches.   

This approach is then backed by 30 actions defined by the PECH which target systemic shortcomings with projects and initiatives and zero in on seven focus areas. The seven areas of focus are to create policy and system accountability, center community voices, build system bridges, advance equitable housing, focus on preventing homelessness, change the narrative on housing and homelessness, and advocate and collaborate for broader change.   

All in all, the investment strategy behind the PECH is aligned with the 2024 investment by the Region of Waterloo into housing and homelessness, which is a budget of $245 million. Alongside this budget, the PECH highlights that 23 per cent of the $245 million is being alloccated into homelessness program, but an additional $110 million will be needed to supplement emergency shelters, transitional housing and supportive housing.

This investment is a determined approach to tackling chronic homelessness in the region. The PECH also includes key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be tracked to measure its successes and areas for improvement, ensuring that accountability is maintained. To summarize, the PECH’s approach towards chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region is like none other than has been seen thus far in the Region. It is a whopping 85-page document that succinctly details the approach to ending chronic homelessness in the Waterloo Region by 2030.   

Although this may be an optimistic goal, it is one step closer to being implemented by the Region and becoming an actionable plan. As the current homelessness crisis continues to spiral in Waterloo Region, the PECH’s optimism and nuanced approach to dealing with the worsening homelessness and housing issues in the Region might be the ray of hope that our city so desperately needs right now.