Permanent emergency shelter planned for downtown Kitchener after region buys YW building

The Region of Waterloo has purchased a women's shelter in downtown Kitchener. YW Kitchener-Waterloo has been operating it since the 1970s. The region says it will put its own permanent, emergency shelter in the space. YW Kitchener-Waterloo had previously said it wanted to move out of the building because the organization needs more space.  (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)

The Region of Waterloo has purchased a building in downtown Kitchener from YW Kitchener-Waterloo to use as a permanent emergency shelter.

Regional councillors approved the purchase of the building on Wednesday night at a cost of $9.46 million.

YW Kitchener-Waterloo has operated a women's emergency shelter at 84 Frederick St. in Kitchener since the early 1970s but announced earlier this year it was set to close the shelter on June 30 because the organization has outgrown the space.

The shelter currently has 66 beds for women in need.

The region says the new shelter space will replace the King Street emergency shelter currently operating at 1668 King St. E. in Kitchener, which is close to the high school Eastwood Collegiate Institute.

The King Street emergency shelter opened in September 2022 and the region says the site has been near or at capacity nightly.

Regional Chair Karen Redman said in a media release purchasing the shelter space will help the region "maintain flexibility in responding to the need for increased housing supports across the board."

The building is located across the street from the Kitchener courthouse. YW Kitchener-Waterloo shelter has 66 beds for women in need. The shelter is expected to close by June 30.
The building is located across the street from the Kitchener courthouse. YW Kitchener-Waterloo shelter has 66 beds for women in need. The shelter is expected to close by June 30.

The building is located across the street from the Kitchener courthouse. YW Kitchener-Waterloo shelter has 66 beds for women in need. The shelter is expected to close by June 30. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Coun. Jim Erb, who chairs the regional council's community and health services committee, applauded the move.

"Over the last few years, we have opened more than 17 temporary sites. Although this provided a timely and dynamic response, it came with challenges related to financial and system stability and community impact," Erb said in the media release.

"With permanent space, the region will be in a better position to implement changes needed to end chronic homelessness. As we stabilize the housing support system, we will be able to shift our focus to preventative and supportive measures rather than solely emergency response."

YW Kitchener-Waterloo CEO Jennifer Breaton said in the release that the sale allows the organization to move forward with plans to design a new emergency shelter.

In an interview in March, Breaton told CBC K-W that YW was looking at a few options, including possibly two or three smaller shelters "that are really designed around the needs of what clients in our community have said they want."