Work is underway to turn a former Waterloo hotel into a homeless shelter

A former Waterloo hotel is being transformed into a shelter for men experiencing homelessness.

The House of Friendship has already starting moving mini-fridges, microwaves, TVs and mattresses out of the former Comfort Inn on Weber Street.

"This environment already provides a lot of dignity," said executive director John Neufeld. "This location will allow for 100 guests to be here where they can have 24/7 accommodation and they'll be allowed to received treatment."

The new approach to addressing homelessness, by integrating physical and mental health, aims to give people the tools they need to get back on track.

"There's already so much stress on people experiencing homelessness, trying to figure out: 'Where is my next meal coming from? Where am I going to sleep?'" said Neufeld. "There's no cognitive capabilities to focus on your health and what's going to allow you to move forward and get into housing."

"That really takes its toll on you, having to leave early in the morning, that was one of the rules," said Jason, who lives at the House of Friendship.

He explained that the old way of doing things didn't work.

"It just makes things a hell of a lot better as far as what you're trying to accomplish, getting into housing."

According to House of Friendship, by purchasing the hotel they are providing infrastructure and stability, while also putting their vision into action – a program that gets people off the streets and into shelter and eventually, into permanent housing.

"I think for many years it was like, well, anything is better than nothing, or let's just put a roof over their heads because at least they're not out in the cold and that's better than nothing," said Neufeld. "The reality is though, it doesn't help people move along."

The hotel still needs to be updated to meet accessibility and safety requirements.

Neufeld said after moving four times in the last two year, they've learned their lesson.

"We know what happens when we move in right away, don't set it up, and don't build the neighbour relations. It deteriorates and everyone gets upset."

Neufeld wants to get it right and is hopeful for what the future will bring.