Options open up for homeless shelter

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When it comes to solving Chatham-Kent’s need for an emergency overnight shelter, the municipality continues to drill down.

At a municipal press conference recently, both CAO Don Shropshire and Mayor Darrin Canniff said staff is hard at work investigating options.

“There is a lot of activity going on,” Canniff told reporters. “We remain very optimistic something is coming up.”

The news comes on the heels of an about face by the municipality which recommended that Hope Haven downtown Chatham be the new home for the overnight shelter.

However, a petition and business owners – including members of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Downtown Chatham BIA – oppose hosting a 27-bed shelter at the Wellington Street location.

The municipality is facing a time crunch, as the contract with Travelodge where the emergency shelter is currently located runs out in May.

Canniff said a “bunch of properties” that were not previously identified have come to light.

The mayor also pointed out solving the issue is a “community effort,” and finding a solution is an example of the community “coming together.”

At its March 7 meeting, council opted to put off a decision on the shelter after new information came to light that could offer an alternative to the Hope Haven site.

However, council and staff are staying mum about those possibilities for the time being.

A report from administration on the issue is due back to council by April 4.

Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness has been rising steeply in Chatham-Kent.

On any given night there are some 200 local residents who do not have a permanent place to lay their heads, with approximately five families a week seeking emergency housing for the first time.

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