OPINION: Does it really matter why?

The makeshift shelter under the Third Street Bridge, as how it looked in late January.

The timing of the removal of an unsightly homeless shelter has the conspiracy theorists hoarse in the throat these days.

But we say, who cares? It’s gone.

We’re talking about the makeshift shelter that had cropped up under the Third Street Bridge.

Points must be awarded for ingenuity for the people who occupied that space. It began as a few sleeping bags up under the new bridge shortly after it opened last summer, and expanded as the weather turned. Tarps and even old road signs were added to block out the wind.

Effective, but unsightly.

In the heart of Chatham, we had this makeshift shelter pop up. Municipal employees walked and drove passed it daily. It was readily visible from Chatham-Kent police headquarters.

Yet it continued to grow.

Until it was ripped down last week.

Some people said the timing is peculiar. The cleanup occurred mere days before Prince Michael of Kent was slated to visit Chatham as part of a weekend event for the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment. In fact, the regiment was to parade right past that point on Sunday.

Furthermore, work is underway at the Civic Centre for the temporary location of a bronze statue of Chatham native and baseball hall of famer Ferguson Jenkins. It would have been quite a contrast for visitors to gaze at the statue of Jenkins – a story of success and perseverance – and then turn around to look at the makeshift shelter – a story of systemic failure supporting Chatham-Kent’s most vulnerable citizens.

Officials said the shelter only came down after everyone who was living there had agreed to different temporary housing arrangements. As soon as it was vacated, the municipality moved in and tore the shelter apart. All that’s left as a reminder are scorch marks on the concrete left from the fires the occupants had lit there for warmth.

So, it is gone. More importantly, alternative housing arrangements were made for those who had lived there.

In the end, that’s all that matters.



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