With increased homelessness in Waterloo region and across Canada, there are more encampments in public places within the city. Find information about homelessness and our approach below.

On this page:

  1. Homelessness
  2. Responsibility
  3. Victoria Park
  4. Questions or concerns

Homelessness

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region has grown significantly over the past few years. The Region of Waterloo estimates that around 1,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness across the region, including hundreds of people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Homelessness is a complex issue that is impacted by many factors, including housing affordability, support services infrastructure, mental health and trauma, job loss, poverty, synthetic drugs and the opioid crisis.


Responsibility

The Region of Waterloo is the lead for housing and shelter locally. As a result of increasing community need, the Region is working with municipal and community partners to find interim housing solutions. These solutions include new emergency shelter spaces and a managed outdoor shelter. Read more about the Region’s plan for the first outdoor shelter, set to open in 2023.

We continue to work with the Region and local partners to address the complex issue of homelessness and encampments. Find out more about how we’re supporting affordable housing in Kitchener.

Addressing homelessness requires an all-of-community approach that includes community members, businesses, social support groups, local municipalities, the Region of Waterloo and provincial and federal partners. We’re committed to doing our part to find and implement solutions.


Victoria Park

Increased homelessness has led to highly visible encampments in public places, including Victoria Park, a City-owned property. We are working with the Region, community partners and service providers to address the challenges of this encampment.

Although those camping in Victoria Park are violating some bylaws, we have been taking a compassionate approach to addressing this encampment. However, we know that unmanaged encampments are not a safe long-term solution to the housing crisis, and we will continue to play our part in finding and implementing solutions.

As the Region of Waterloo makes additional shelter options available this winter, we will support the residents of Roos Island in their relocation. Service providers for the Region’s new managed outdoor shelter have begun engaging encampment residents to determine their interest in this new housing option.

Our goal is to ensure Victoria Park is returned to its intended use as a public park, available for all residents to enjoy as soon as possible, while supporting those living on Roos Island to relocate to a safer and more appropriate shelter. Supported relocation involves:

  • engaging residents and identifying alternative places to live
  • addressing their basic needs for housing
  • improving upon their current housing
  • connecting residents with the necessary social and health support services

By-law and other City staff visit Roos Island daily to check on residents, help connect them with shelter options and other services, check for fire risks and provide safer heating options. Staff also facilitate daily garbage removal and cleanup of litter, sharps and abandoned or damaged tents. Staff and contracted security regularly patrol Victoria Park to address any safety or security issues raised by park users or Roos Island residents.


Questions or concerns

If you have encampment-related concerns, please:

  • call the Region of Waterloo at 519-575-4400: homelessness and housing questions
  • call the City of Kitchener at 519-741-2345 or report a problem online: garbage, nuisance concerns, unsafe conditions
  • call Waterloo Regional Police Service at 519-570-9777 or report online: non-emergency criminal activity (example: theft)
  • call 911: emergencies only

If you are looking for an emergency shelter, you can find shelter details and contact information on the Region of Waterloo emergency shelter page.