Saturday, February 27, 2021

Homeless shelter plans change in Chatham-Kent

The plans for a temporary homeless shelter in Chatham-Kent have changed.

Municipal officials say on August 10 Chatham-Kent Council directed administration to negotiate the terms of a two year lease of 280 Merritt Avenue in Chatham for use as a temporary homeless shelter.

However, in a press release issued on Monday, August 31, 2020, Municipal officials say the lease for 280 Merritt Avenue in Chatham is no longer being pursued for the emergency homeless shelter.

Despite the sincere efforts of the owners and administration, an agreement within the period needed to move has not been reached, Municipal officials say.

To date, the John D. Bradley Convention Centre has assisted in providing temporary shelter space for more than 150 people in need of housing in Chatham-Kent, but it is now experiencing demand for rental space and can no longer accommodate the shelter.

Employment and Social Services staff will need emergency accommodations for the foreseeable future in order to best serve the most vulnerable members of our community, Municipal officials say.

Chatham-Kent emergency shelter services will use motel rooms within Chatham-Kent, primarily in Chatham, to meet temporary shelter needs.

This option is now possible as motels have come forward identifying their renewed capacity to serve individuals and families who find themselves homeless and are willingly participating in the sheltering plans, Municipal officials say.

“The opportunity to lease 280 Merritt Avenue in Chatham was a workable solution for a temporary shelter,” stated Polly Smith, director of employment and social services, in a media release.

“We are grateful to the owners who willingly offered to help. With the urgent need to secure an alternate location and a lease not yet close to being finalized, a change of course was required.”

Smith added at the beginning of the pandemic, hotels had a shortage of available rooms.

“Recently local hotels have advised us of renewed opportunity to continue our long-standing arrangement of temporarily placing our vulnerable population while we assist them in securing permanent housing,” she said.

“We are grateful for this opportunity and will move our services out of the John D. Bradley Centre shortly. With this change, all community meetings and other plans related to the move to 280 Merritt Avenue in Chatham have been cancelled.”

Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said over the last five months, municipal staff, in partnership with multiple community groups, have worked diligently to ensure Chatham-Kent’s most vulnerable citizens have been as safe as possible throughout the pandemic.

“There is still more work to be done as we navigate through the next several months,” Mayor Canniff said in a media release.

“I hope as a community we continue to support one another, it has been said many times, we are stronger together. Taking care of our most vulnerable is one of the things that makes our community stronger.”

Smith said it is her “sincere hope” that the community will actively support increased housing development and supportive housing options in Chatham-Kent.

“Helping individuals and families obtain adequate housing with supports for those who need them will strengthen our community,” she said.

“I would also like to thank the John D. Bradley Centre for their support and community mindedness over the past 4 months.”

On August 10, Council directed staff to return with a report to Council in 2020 regarding a supportive housing development option with Indwell.

A group of concerned citizens, lead by Neighbourlink, is hoping to attract Indwell to Chatham-Kent, Municipal officials say.

Indwell is a charitable organization that creates affordable housing communities that support people seeking health, wellness and belonging.

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