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“One youth on the street is one too many,” has been the long-standing motto for OneROOF, an organization that seeks to help youth experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region especially during the pandemic.
Despite the hardships OneROOF has faced during the era of COVID-19, a new building is in development near OneROOF’s current operational facilities. It will be part of the “quad,” as CEO Sandy Dietrich-Bell calls it, a series of buildings and services located around 35 Sheldon Ave. N where OneRoof administers various aid programs that seek to help homeless youth on their path to becoming thriving members of the community.
The new structure is a 44-unit apartment building that was given funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Twenty-five of those units will be designated specifically for homeless people, while 15 units will be used for people with mental health or addiction issues, leaving the remaining four units for Indigenous peoples.
Dietrich-Bell points out that many of the youth who move forward with OneROOF’s programs still have issues finding homes.
“Any landlords that do have options, youth are kind of their last choice, and youth experiencing homelessness is last to last.”
With this new building, Dietrich-Bell seeks to aid youth by letting OneROOF be the landlord who can give appropriate considerations for their tenants.
Many members of the community have made comments showing their support for OneROOF and its mission goal.
“Housing is a human right, and the City of Kitchener is committed to doing our part by working with all orders of government and community partners to deliver on that,” said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic in a press release.
Despite the ambitions and plans of OneROOF, they have felt severe pressures from the pandemic because many of their programs that provide youth with skills necessary to be independent have been halted due to COVID-19.
This includes a variety of programs that not only provide the youth with income but also real-world experience. The Change4change physical thrift store has been moved entirely online while Street Design and Lunchbox, which are art and culinary practice programs respectively, have also been put on pause.
“We really are at the mercy of COVID,” says Dietrich-Bell, noting that the programs are continuing on a much smaller scale.
Dietrich-Bell stresses that there are still many opportunities for communities to come together and help the goal of OneROOF. Donations, physical goods, and volunteering are a few ways for the Kitchener community to get involved.