Chatham-Kent has opened the John D. Bradley Convention Centre as a temporary shelter for homeless people. (Courtesy Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Plans have changed for homeless shelter arrangements in Chatham-Kent, according to municipal officials.

On Aug. 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 and 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.

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

Chatham-Kent officials said 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,” said a news release from the municipality.

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.

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

“The opportunity to lease 280 Merritt Avenue in Chatham was a workable solution for a temporary shelter,” said Polly Smith, director of employment and social services. “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 said at the beginning of the pandemic, hotels had a shortage of available rooms, but recently local hotels have told them of renewed opportunity to continue their long-standing arrangement of temporarily placing our vulnerable population while they assist them in securing permanent housing.

“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,” added Smith.

Chatham-Kent mayor Darrin Canniff said over the last five months municipal staff and community groups have worked diligently to ensure vulnerable citizens are safe through the pandemic.

“There is still more work to be done as we navigate through the next several months,” said Canniff. “I hope as a community we continue to support one another, it has been said many times, we are stronger together.”