Editor: I was happy to read articles about the establishment of a permanent homeless shelter on Murray Street in the former Victoria Park Public School.
However; what surprised me even more was the number of people protesting against this initiative by some local investors.
As investors, I am sure they have a long-range plan for this site, but I will leave this speculation for another time. Suffice to say it’s very nice of them. We needed a group like this with vision to push ahead and be proactive and finally do something concrete for this growing and ever-present situation in Chatham.
What both puzzled and also peeved me was that these protestors (Not-In-My-Backyard mindsetters) were miffed that they were not consulted about this project. The implication of being consulted means in fact you want to find an excuse to make this thing go away.
The homeless problem is not a new phenomenon to Chatham and region. And as our economic situations worsen, post-pandemic and global crisis worsens and prices of homes increase making them unaffordable for many, a solution of this kind using empty buildings is not only creative but also timely.
You’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed if you don’t; as the saying goes. Meaning council gave the go-ahead decision because it has been an issue that has been crying for solution for decades.
I was thinking on this more and reflected on the many, many, many organizations that deal with the homeless.
You have ComeTogetherCK, 100 Men Who Care, 100 Women Who Care, The United Way, Hope Haven, sandwich distribution volunteers, soup kitchens, church organizations, R.O.C.K. Missions, Indwell, Maple City Homes, the municipality, Tim Horton’s, and many ad hoc homeless shelters, just to name a few.
Chatham is a very generous community. We are truly lucky to live here.
Again, do we want to find a solution? Or is this an attempt to make us feel warm and fuzzy during the holidays as we give an hour or two of our time and then go back to our warm homes, to our comfortable lounge chairs, sipping on our wine or beer while enjoying Hockey Night in Canada on our 72-inch TV screens?
So when a generous creative group makes an effort, we protest?
Some homeless have mental issues, but not violent issues, instead they are more self-destructive ones, loss of self-esteem, loneliness, abandonment and abuse. We take better care of our homeless animals then we do our homeless humans.
Instead of condemning the project, I feel we should see how we as a community can make that shelter even more successful and better.
This perhaps is where I can now digress a little and say that the homeless shelters provided in the past have been archaic.
No wonder they do not work and why a lot of homeless do not want to stay in them.
I hope the investors; taking on this project will really think carefully about the inner structure and layout of this building.
Instead of buying hundreds of beds and lining them up in a large room like dead salmon on a beach, I urge the builders to create small actual little pods for each man/woman/family. Make it that the occupant has privacy thus increasing self-esteem.
Yes; monitoring and management have to be in place. Perhaps the big dormitory approach is cheaper. But in the long run it does not accomplish anything more in reducing the crisis.
By creating this pilot project with sustainability and adherence to rules and regulations and municipal responsibility enforced; as we all have to living in Chatham; none of the fears voiced by those protesting will come to fruition. I am confident of that.