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Better Tent City eyeing move to Woolwich

Officials have found a new home for the makeshift community, on five acres of land on Spitzig Road
A Better Tent City
Supplied photo from Jeff Willmer

Looks like the Better Tent City at Lot42 in Kitchener is moving to Woolwich Township.

Pending approval next Tuesday to use the land, the makeshift community of the region's most vulnerable residents will be relocating to Spitzig Road.

The land is owned by the Diocese of Hamilton, who Jeff Willmer with the Better Tent City said he got in contact with through the help of Father Toby Collins with St. Mary's Church.

"It's a 53 acre farm, and we're probably only going to be using about five acres of it," said Willmer.

He said it provides plenty of space for residents to be together, and apart when they need privacy.

As well, Willmer said it's not close to any residences nearby --- the closest neighbour is about 250 metres away --- and will have as many of the amenities residents got at Lot42 as possible.

This includes regular visits from the Sanguen Health Centre's mobile health care bus.

Another element of this is the fact that they're on the farm land.

"We've been connected with a group that does intensive agriculture in containers, sort of hydroponics and that type of stuff," Willmer said.

"The opportunity to produce fresh produce every day of the year, and have the residents involved in that, learning some job skills, having a purpose and developing some confidence in the workplace is a big opportunity for us."

Willmer will be presenting at Woolwich's Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday.

Ahead of time, Willmer said he introduced himself to the neighbours, who were said to be receptive.

"They understand the good work that we're doing," he said.

"There were some questions about why this property, and how might it affect their properties.  We're expecting the conversation, there will be different perspectives and people have an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns."

The landowners are allowing for a three-year stay, and Willmer is happy with that kind of stability.

But he emphasized that this isn't a permanent solution.

"The solution for homelessness is housing," he said, "Our hope is that affordable housing with supports can be provided and we won't need a Better Tent City as a permanent use."

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