Chatham homeless shelter closing at night due to COVID-19

Volunteers have expressed safety concerns at the Chatham Hope Haven men's shelter. (Sacha Long / CTV Windsor)

A homeless shelter for men will soon be closing its doors because of COVID-19 concerns.

Chatham Hope Haven officials announced over the weekend that April 25 will be the last night overnight accommodations will be offered because of volunteer safety risks and concerns of infection.

General manager Wanda Bell says the shelter is now looking to the municipality to help find accommodations for 15 regular shelter users.

“Over the past few weeks, several volunteers have stepped back, which is understandable considering fear of infection. This has left the remaining folks stretched and doing double-duty,” said Bell. “In addition, recruitment of new volunteers is difficult in the best of times as the homeless are a challenging group to help.”

The shelter was deemed an essential business during the pandemic and had been operating, with new policies, from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m., offering beds, showers and food.

To increase shelter safety, staff had moved all beds six feet apart, enforced mandatory hand washing and increased the use of gloves and face masks.

In a release, Bell added that the decision is being made with a “heavy heart.”

“Our mission to advocate for the homeless remains our top priority. The way we operate in the coming months, however will change,” she said. “The volunteers who now supervise in the evening will be asked to continue to help with meals and emotional support – but in a different way.”

Chatham-Kent council was recently told that administration is looking at a plan to make an isolation shelter for the municipal homeless population.