Chatham-Kent is looking at a long term plan to create permanent housing for the homeless in the area and a short term plan to move them out of the temporary shelter at the John Bradley Convention Centre.
Approximately 40-50 people have been staying at the temporary shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a recommendation coming before council Monday night suggests moving them around the corner to the Chatham Banquet and Conference Centre at 280 Merritt Avenue, so the Bradley Centre can get back to hosting conventions and shows.
A report prepared by Director of Employment and Social Services Polly Smith noted the space should be leased for two years with a price tag of $250,000 over that period, including utilities and maintenance. The funding will come from provincial and municipal social assistance and homeless prevention programs.
The report said the site was chosen as the best fit because it has ample square footage, it's ready to move in to, it's on a bus route, and it has a kitchen to save money on food preparation. However, portable showers would need to be used as was the case with all the facilities reviewed and/or available for the isolation shelter.
The report noted temporary staff would be hired to operate the shelter to allow redeployed municipal staff to return to their regular duties. Other options, such as vacant schools, municipal buildings, and portable housing units were considered either too costly, were not suitable, or there was too much of a wait to move.
Employment and Social Services workers tried to get hotel and motel rooms as transitional housing as they did in previous years but the sudden increase in the homeless population in early March due to the pandemic was too much to keep up with, said the report.
The municipality is also looking at a long term housing solution from a company named Indwell for individuals in need of supportive housing and administration promises a full report before the end of the year. Smith said the Indwell option has supports suited for people with high needs and is a charity experienced in working with communities. She added that solution would take up to three years to realize from the time of a commitment and it would require capital investment and serviced land.