By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
LuAnne VanAcker is heaving a sigh of relief.
The Chatham resident, who has lived at a CK Extended Stay home since last October, learned last week she can continue to call the former Super 8 Motel home.
“I’ve been really worried,” VanAcker said. “I have a 15-year-old dog that I have to take care of. I didn’t know where I was going to go.”
Like the rest of the estimated 45 tenants living at 25 Michener Rd., VanAcker found out she was supposed to vacate the building by July 31. As of July 13, a sign posted on the building’s door states the facility will be “closing completely down” at the end of the month for full renovation.
That notice put many residents in a panic.
VanAcker, who collects Ontario Works and also works as a waitress, said she was unable to find secure housing that would accept animals, as there’s no way she’s leaving her beloved Raffie behind. She’s able to keep him at Extended Stay.
“Most places don’t want pets,” she said. “He’s just a little dog.”
“Some of the people thought they were going to have a nervous breakdown,” said tenant Dennis Bergsma, who is soon moving out with his girlfriend. “People were really worried.”
But according to Chatham-Kent housing stability worker Jeff Wilkins, none of the tenants need to be out by the end of the month. Their tenancies are covered under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), making it illegal to force anyone to move without proper notice.
Wilkins, R.O.C.K. Missions executive director Renee Geniole and a municipal employment and social service worker paid a visit to CK Extended Stay recently to explain to about two-dozen residents they don’t have to leave at the end of July.
“I advised them they don’t have to leave,” Wilkins told The Voice, noting one elderly lady was sobbing at the meeting, terrified she would find herself on the street.
Wilkins said CK Extended Stay does not meet any of the RTA exemptions, therefore the RTA applies and those staying there are its tenants. They have stayed there on a constant basis, they pay their rent monthly and they have identification that states the facility is their place of residence, therefore, it is their home.
The Chatham Voice has reached out to manager Jody Jarett for comment, but had no response as of press time.
Wilkins said CK Extended Stay is a spot for hard-to-house clients, with residents typically collecting Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program funds. Fees for CK Extended Care are $850 per month for a single bed.
Conditions are less than ideal, Wilkins said, as OW clients are often forced to share a room with two or three other people, who they may not know. Partitions are set up between beds, but no other provision is made for privacy.
Security and safety are other problems, Wilkins noted, as there are often no locks on the doors, and cockroaches in the building. Some of the units do not have air conditioning.
According to previously published reports, the motel changed hands in 2021, opening as a place for people transitioning into permanent housing.
Wilkins said he’s not sure why the July 31 notice went up, but pointed out that the owners have made a tidy profit in the last couple years renting out the rooms, grossing somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1 million.
It is unknown who actually owns the property, as it is listed as a numbered company.
Now it’s a wait-and-see what happens game, Wilkins added, noting he is not sure what the owners were planning for the property or if it has been sold.