Members of the Tecumseh Park Neighbourhood Association (TPNA) hope Chatham-Kent’s elected officials hear their plea to move the Victoria Park Place homeless shelter away from its Murray Street location.
To raise awareness about the issues related to crime, the grass-roots advocacy group recently launched a vigorous letter-writing campaign, outlining a litany of complaints about the increase in neighbourhood crime they say came along with the establishment of the shelter.
TPNA member Susan Simpson said the campaign was launched in response to a recent Let’s Talk CK municipal online survey asking taxpayers if they would support increasing funding to operate the shelter beyond the year 2025.
The survey, designed to gather input for upcoming budget deliberations, has now closed.
Originally, Simpson said, the shelter was to be a temporary measure, but the group is wondering if Chatham-Kent has other plans.
“We were informed that the emergency was temporary until 2025 and that seems to not be the case as they are asking about funding beyond 2025,” Simpson said, noting the group is concerned that shelter users are not receiving proper supports and the number of encampments have increased.
According to Simpson, police statistics show that crime in the Tecumseh Park neighbourhood has increased by 54 per cent on average since the Murray Street shelter was launched.
“Law enforcement is stretched thin responding to calls for service near the shelter,” she said, noting members of the group meet to go over safety concerns with police each month.
But she said she wants to see the homeless supported because it’s a “heart-breaking” situation.
Simpson’s husband Clark Simpson, a member of the TPNA executive, said the nature of crime in the neighbourhood has changed since Victoria Park Place entered the picture.
“The crimes and behaviours we are seeing have become more severe,” he explained. “They’re more violent and more upsetting for people and children in the neighbourhood to witness.”
Mike Comiskey, who lives on Stanley Avenue across from the old courthouse, is one of the residents that has raised concerns. He’s lived in the neighbourhood for 75 years.
Comiskey said life “has changed drastically” since the shelter came.
Fires, constant theft, people passed out and doing drugs, litter and graffiti are now a part of daily life, he added.
“The shelter does not belong in a residential neighbourhood where there are schools and children!” Comiskey emphasized.
The Victoria Park Place shelter was established in June 2022 without public consultation. A group of prominent local investors leased the building to the municipality for $1 a year.
By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 30, 2023 at 13:18