Residents ignored in shelter decision

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Editor: Chatham Kent council and staff have published their core values on how they will interact with the citizens of Chatham-Kent. It states they will demonstrate respect, honesty, integrity, open communications, along with equality.

The mayor often talks about positivity as a priority for the municipality.

However, it is very apparent with the new location of the homeless shelter, that unless you have the money to solve a complicated situation, then your concerns and questions are meaningless and the core values are just words on paper.

Council decided to ignore a request from the Tecumseh Park neighbourhood to defer a decision on the location of the homeless shelter. It voted to proceed with the location at 185 Murray St., which was the former Victoria Park School. This decision was made without any input or consultation with the neighbourhood, despite receiving multiple deputations asking for a deferral.

City staff has been aware since the summer of 2021 that they have to move the shelter from the temporary location at the Travel Lodge (on Bloomfield Road) by May 31.

They looked at the former CAW Hall on Merritt and after discussions with area residents and Winston Churchill School officials, this location was rejected.

The next consideration was Hope Haven in the downtown core. However, business owners submitted a petition to stop this move despite knowing administration supported this site.

At the March 8 council meeting, a deferral was allowed to address the business owner’s petition. The merchants were concerned with assaults, property damage, sleeping on the streets, panhandling and a general feeling of not being safe.

Suddenly, a group of local investors were offering 185 Murray St. as a new shelter site.

The recommendation was released in the media on March 18 and council decided on March 21 to proceed. The only one to address the concerns of the neighbourhood was Coun. Mike Bondy who asked for a deferment to allow consultation. This was vetoed by an 11 to 5 vote.

Business owners were granted a deferment when requested, but blindsided citizens were denied.

My view on the entire process is that city staff has procrastinated since last summer on the whole process and at the 11th hour had to find a quick solution. A group of investors popped up to buy them out of this problem and council took that route.

Council did not perform due diligence. I think they ignored the deputations asking councillors to delay the vote and consult with the residents.

They did not question this project as to costing, a detailed budget and viable time frame for the site to be fully functional by May 31.

There was minimal concern from council that no consultation had taken place with the neighbourhood or nearby daycare and school staff.

We realize a shelter is necessary for individuals who are dealing with addictions and mental health issues, however, the same issues the downtown merchants identified in their petition are still relevant if the shelter is moved to our residential neighbourhood.

The majority of the neighbourhood wanted to hear how the shelter would operate and how concerns and issues would be dealt with and resolved. Both council and city staff felt this was not necessary and proceeded without any further discussion.

Council is not likely to reverse this decision even though Hope Haven has confirmed they will continue to serve their vulnerable clients at their downtown location.

We want the people of Chatham-Kent to see how this administration and council work.

All we can do now is vote for some new councillors who will uphold their own values and ethics in this fall’s election.

Sorry, Mayor Caniff, but we are not feeling very positive today.

 

Dale & Beth Koehler

Chatham

 

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