What to do with Chatham-Kent’s homeless population is up for discussion after the municipality backed down on plans to relocate the temporary emergency shelter to a reception hall a few blocks away.
But a temporary fix is just that, temporary. The less fortunate will be relocated to various motels next week.
“I don’t think a temporary anything is the solution,” Loree Bailey, general manager of Chatham Hope Haven said.
Since April, those experiencing homelessness in Chatham-Kent have been spending their time at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre, but municipal and homeless officials want to see a long-term solution.
“Because we’ve been here for three years, a lot of people know about us and the people reach out to us by default when they know of somebody who is homeless or they recognize that somebody might need to access or service they themselves need to,” Bailey said.
The Downtown Hope Haven for Men shelter had to close its night program last Spring because of the pandemic, and just recently reopened as a cooling centre.
Staff there say they haven’t been consulted by the municipality about how to navigate the challenges of housing the homeless.
“The ultimate goal is to help the very vulnerable population of the homeless, so we can best do that if we work together. That only makes sense,” Bailey said.
“Chatham-Kent’s philosophy is housing first,” Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said. “So we want to get people housed, that’s the long-term solution.”
Canniff anticipates a building boom to shake things up, telling CTV News that a variety of luxury and affordable homes are on the way.
“Both apartments and homes, we’re looking at a record number of permits and homes being built,” he said. “We need that in our community!”
Canniff says the temporary shelter had anywhere from 30 to 50 people per night since it opened, and that staff are working on a report for a new homeless facility.
But he believes the solution lies with new housing.
“A homeless shelter fits short-term but long-term we need to get people housed,” Canniff said. “That’s better for individuals. We need to wrap services around them to help them with their issues and to help them function long term.”
Hope Haven hopes they’ll be consulted since they’re on the frontlines 24/7 and say the motel rooms won’t solve the problem.
“If we all work together we have a better chance of helping the people that really need the help,” Bailey said.