A local homeless shelter is now opening its doors after relocating.
The shelter recently completed its move from its former location at the Travelodge in Chatham to the former Victoria Park elementary school on Murray Street. The shelter was forced to relocate after the municipality’s emergency shelter beds program at the Travelodge ended on May 31.
“We’re so happy and grateful for the location. It’s going to be a wonderful resource for people that are looking to be rehoused,” said Polly Smith, the municipality’s director of Employment and Social Services.
Smith added they’ve had a lot of successful housing placements in recent months and are hoping to get ahead of the number of people falling into homelessness.
“We had a few hiccups along the way while moving, mostly because we had a flood on the long weekend,” said Smith. “But everybody came together, our staff, our other municipal division, the contractors, and subcontractors pulled off a bit of a miracle.”
Smith said the flood had caused a temporary decrease in the number of available beds; however, all of the shelter’s 50 beds should be available shortly. She added that all of the available beds at the shelter are currently in use.
“It’s sort of a waiting list situation,” said Smith. “If we can’t put people up right now at that location, we look to see if there might be a motel option for them.”
The finishing touches are now taking place while programs at the shelter are being finalized.
Smith said housing placements have been strong for the past few months, with the by-name list starting to dwindle. However, she said new households are still falling into homelessness because of the lack of affordable housing, high costs of living and low incomes.
Chatham-Kent Council voted in favour of moving the shelter to its new location on Murray Street in March; however, the decision was met with backlash from residents in the area who felt there was a lack of public consultation.
Several public meetings were held prior to the shelter’s relocation, with neighbours expressing frustration and anger over the shelter’s proximity to a daycare, a school, and a retirement facility.
Smith said the shelter fully intends to work with local residents to ensure a smooth transition within the community.
The facility is neither a free hostel nor a drop-in centre, given there are requirements for those accessing the service to participate in programs to assist a transition to more long-term housing.
Anyone experiencing a homelessness emergency can call the homeless response line at 519-354-6628, which is available 24-7. If no one immediately answers, staff are assisting another household at the time, and callers are asked to leave a message.
Smith said anyone with concerns pertaining to the homeless shelter could contact her at 519-351-8573.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News