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New facilities coming to Kitchener's 'A Better Tent City'

On-site toilet, showers, laundry among add-ons on the way to the makeshift housing community
A Better Tent City
Supplied photo from Jeff Willmer

KITCHENER — Residents of A Better Tent City "can hardly wait" for improved facilities coming to the makeshift housing community.

Water, sewer, and electrical connections have recently been hooked up at ABTC, getting the community off of costly generator power.

This means a shipping container outfitted with toilets, showers, and laundry will be brought in.

"The residents have been getting by with portable toilets and a shuttling off-site to use showers elsewhere, but it will be great for them to have a heated place and be able to do showers and laundry right on the site," said Jeff Willmer, a volunteer with A Better Tent City. 

Then in a few weeks, portable classrooms will be transformed into a kitchen and dining area.

Willmer said, "The idea of having their own kitchen and their own dining area, and a warm place to hang out together and be the community that they are, that will be a big step forward."

He said these new facilities will give residents a sense of dignity, self-respect, and help them to feel more a part of society.

Willmer explained that residents of the community had been living in isolation prior to becoming a part of ABTC, either on the streets or tenting in the woods.

"The other piece of it is, even though some of the facilities are available, it's difficult to access them. There are places where they can have a shower, but they have to line up. Or, there's places where you can do laundry, but you have to book an appointment," he said. 

Willmer said that for people working with ABTC, it's been very grounding.

He said, "It causes us to realize we shouldn't take these things for granted. For the residents themselves, they can hardly wait until there are improved facilities ... Portable toilets and hand sanitizer have been getting us through."

Willmer said the smiles on the residents' faces "speak volumes."

He said these upgrades have been made possible by contractors and engineers who stepped up, in addition to sponsors.

The volunteer added that ABTC may also hold a fundraising campaign in the future once they tally the invoices.

He said that the closest neighbours to the community, the school board administrative offices and the credit union have all been very welcoming, despite disruptions. 

ABTC has been living at a grassy site at 49 Ardelt Avenue, since moving from a city snow storage site on Battler Road.