Residents of A Better Tent City won’t be leaving Kitchener, at least for now, as the city offered up temporary space at its snow-storage facility.
The site in an industrial area in the southeast part of the city provides a short-term solution to the imminent loss of ABTC’s original home at the former event space Lot42, which has been sold. The organization has to vacate the property by June 20.
Kitchener has made the property at 1585 Battler Rd. available through the end of October, giving ABTC some time to find a longer-term home. The homelessness organization had been looking to relocate to a vacant farm property near Breslau, but was told by Woolwich council earlier this month it would have to go through a formal planning process that could take a year or more to complete, with no guarantee of approval.
A Better Tent City currently houses some 50 people in tiny homes, providing centralized washroom, shower and kitchen facilities.
The Battler Road facility is not used by the city during the summer months. It has a large, paved surface with berms that will provide some privacy for residents, the city said in a release announcing the decision Thursday.
“Providing ABTC with the short-term use of this site will ensure that the 50 residents of the community will continue to have a home during the pandemic emergency while ABTC leadership continues the process to secure an appropriate location for relocation prior to winter.”
“The City of Kitchener has a long history of stepping up and working with our community to address social challenges like homelessness that face both our city and the broader region,” said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic in a release. “The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of looking after our most vulnerable residents, and I’m proud that Kitchener council, with its priority on affordable housing, came forward to collaboratively support A Better Tent City and its residents.”
The decision was welcomed by ABTC volunteer Jeff Willmer, with organizers already in the process of moving residents to the new site today.
“All the residents will be sleeping in their own cabins tonight,” he said.
In addition to those currently living in tiny homes, 10 people previously sleeping in tents will have new cabins at the city site, he added.
The property has water and electrical services, but ABTC will be relying on portable toilets and holding tanks to provide sanitary services. A shower trailer will be hooked up to the existing water supply.
Today’s move is the top priority, with organizers turning to a long-term solution in the coming days, said Willmer.
“Having this site buys us a little time to decide what comes next.”