Cambridge shelter is serving more people this summer than before, including refugees

The Cambridge Shelter Corporation, which runs The Bridges, says it's in need of community support. They're seeing more people in need of their services this summer than ever before, including 16 refugees.

'Municipal taxpayers can't solve this issue,' regional Coun. Doug Craig says

A brick sign.
Cambridge Shelter, also known as The Bridges on May 3. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Summer is normally the time of year where the Cambridge Shelter Corporation sees a decline in people coming through their doors, but the opposite has been true this year.

Executive director Wayne Paddick says the shelter — which runs The Bridges — is serving more people than ever before. They are asking for food and clothing donations from the community to help them meet the need.

"Our numbers have really gone up in the last month especially and we're working with the region to try and figure out why, but we're seeing a lot more refugees coming though our doors and that would also account for the increase in the numbers being so high," Paddick told CBC News.

Paddick said over a dozen refugees came to the shelter early last week seeking help.

"When we have one refugee come through, we can work with them, work with Compass [Refugee Centre]. But we have 16 right now," he said.

Paddick said the refugees are staying at the shelter while staff work to connect them with the right supports and housing.

In an email statement to CBC News, the region said it is "working closely" with emergency shelters and organizations that support refugee and refugee claimants in the community to provide shelter and settlement supports.

"Regional staff are meeting with local organizations and community partners to ensure service pathways and support is available to people coming to Waterloo region as they settle in our community," the statement said.

A man wearing a bright red shirt.
Wayne Paddick is the executive director of The Cambridge Shelter. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Regional councillors to raise issue at committee meeting

The number of refugee claimants coming to Waterloo region has been on the rise this past year, averaging from 60 to 80 people every month,. Organizations like Compass Refugee Centre and K-W Multicultural Centre say their clients are in urgent need of more assistance

Refugees accessing shelters in the region did not come as a surprise to Cambridge regional Coun. Pam Wolf. 

"Right now, the region is serving 1,600 refugee claimants and new arrivals have been steadily increasing," Wolf told CBC News.

"We have been hearing from shelter providers that refugee [numbers] are increasing."

Wolf said the region has the structure to support refugees claimants coming to the community, but lacks funding. The federal government announced $212 million on July 18 to help house asylum seekers and Wolf said the region has sent an application to get some of that funding.

"It's clear, in terms of funding, for [government-assisted] refugees, but refugee claimants seem to have fallen through our social safety net," she said.

It's an issue that regional Coun. Doug Craig, who also represents Cambridge, says can't be ignored. 

"We're going to have to re-establish some priorities in the budget and that's going to be very difficult in a difficult year," Craig told CBC News. 

"I think helping people who are in desperate need or somewhat need is of high priority."

Craig added the region needs to have more "difficult and serious conversations" with the province and the federal government to get more financial support for refugee claimants coming to the region. 

"Municipal taxpayers can't solve this issue," he said. 

Craig and Wolf said they plan to raise the issue at a regional committee meeting scheduled to take place on Aug. 15.