The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is proposing an Emergency Housing Partnership with Chatham-Kent Hope Haven to jointly deliver an overnight shelter at 183 Wellington Street West.
The Chatham-Kent Emergency and Rapid Rehousing Program is currently located at the Travelodge Hotel and must be relocated. Launched in 2020, the provincial funding that supported the program, and the lease with Travelodge, is ending. However, there is still a significant need for emergency housing in Chatham-Kent.
On March 7, 2022, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s Employment & Social Services (ESS) department will recommend that Council support a new partnership with Hope Haven. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope Haven has operated a day program and provided overnight respite during extreme weather. They are centrally located close to services and the bus depot and their services are well utilized.
Housing and homelessness is a pressing issue in Chatham-Kent. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on low-income people and families. Many in our community have faced reduced incomes while the costs of living continue to increase. Housing costs have increased dramatically across Ontario, including in Chatham-Kent, where the average market rent for a one-bedroom unit has climbed more than 40% in the last three years. Despite this rapid increase, incomes for the thousands in our community on social assistance remain at 2019 levels.
Homelessness has grown by about 150% since December 2019 and on any given night there are some 200 people without a place to stay. Each week about five people access emergency housing for the first time. Hope Haven is well suited to be an alternative to the Travelodge, with a capacity of 27 beds that meet current infection control requirements.
Historically, Chatham-Kent has used motels to assist those in need, including 45 beds at Travelodge. However, due to the rapid rise in housing costs, the majority of motel rooms are regularly full as many people with low incomes rely on motels for long-term housing. ESS will be releasing a ‘Request for Proposals’ to local motel operators interested in working with the Municipality to reserve a certain number of rooms for families and prioritized individuals. With reduced program funding and the limited supply of rooms, future motel rooms must be prioritized for families and individuals with special considerations.
ESS and Hope Haven are committed to ending homelessness in Chatham-Kent. Together we will build a housing-focused shelter that will work with people to find long-term housing. Since operating emergency housing in April 2020, ESS and our partners have helped 472 households return to stable housing. Housing is a first step to achieving the stability needed to reach other goals like employment or education. Once a person has a home, they can access support and begin to integrate with the community again. This benefits not only that individual but the entire community.
“Prior to the pandemic, Hope Haven provided overnight shelter for those experiencing homelessness in CK. In 2021, we served 12,049 visitors who sought meals, showers, laundry, internet, telephone and access to municipal case management and other supports. It feels like a very natural transition after 5 years of serving this population, that we welcome a municipal partnership at the Haven. There can be no question that an emergency program is needed in Chatham-Kent, and we are thrilled to continue to be a part of that,” said Loree Bailey, General Manager of Hope Haven.
Community Conversations Planned
ESS and Hope Haven and other community partners will be hosting community conversations on March 2nd, at 6:30 pm and March 3rd at noon through the Chatham-Kent Facebook Page (Facebook Live). These conversations will focus on how this program can fit into the community and how to be a good neighbour. The Municipality will listen to concerns and discuss how to address them. Chatham-Kent is committed to maintaining open communications with the community, should this plan be approved.
“No one likes homelessness. However, we can all agree on respecting the dignity of individuals and families that are going through this crisis. Many people in our community need help and support. They need a safe place to go and they need services to get back on their feet and into a permanent home. We believe that together in partnership with Hope Haven we can build a program that meets the community’s needs and is part of a larger system of care,” said Polly Smith, Director, Employment & Social Services.
For more information on this important topic and the work that has been done in Chatham-Kent to reduce the need for programs like shelters please visit www.letstalkchatham-kent.ca/ck-emergency-housing-proposal.