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New accommodation found for at least some of Chipican’s vulnerable residents

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Cathy Dobson

About half the residents who have lived long-term at The Chipican Motel will have another motel to move to when it sells, says Myles Vanni, executive director of The Inn of the Good Shepherd.

For at least a year, The Inn has housed 13 people at the 22-unit motel located on the corner of Christina and Michigan Avenue.

They’ve been part of the Inn’s Half Way Home program, which houses numerous people who would otherwise be homeless and assists with a portion of the rent, Vanni said.

“So at first we were really concerned when we heard The Chipican had sold,” he said. “Some in our Half Way Home program are doing really well and we want to see that continue.”

Shortly after the current owner of The Chipican accepted an offer to purchase in early October, tenants received notices that they would have to move out by Nov. 30, Vanni said.

 “Our staff went to work to find a new place for them and talked to the Bluewater Motel (on London Line) where we already have a contract for overflow.”

The Bluewater Motel has agreed to accept all 13 of the Inn’s residents at The Chipican, Vanni confirmed.

Two have already moved and the rest are expected to relocate in late November.

The two-storey Chipican is considered a landmark by many and was built in the 1940s. It was once attractive to vacationing families but has fallen on hard times. Most rooms have been occupied long-term but the occasional tourist who stays there generally gives it a one or two star rating these days.

Lake Point Grillhouse – formerly the Chipican Restaurant – immediately north of the motel is a separate property and not part of the real estate deal. The restaurant has been shut down since the pandemic.

Lou Longo, a broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Southwest, said he listed The Chipican Motel eight months ago and the offer that’s been accepted came in just under the $2.6 million asking price.

But the real estate deal has not closed and Longo said he can’t disclose more details until it does.

“Unfortunately, we are a ways out yet from the closing date,” he said. “But it will be this year.”

He said the potential purchaser has a “local affiliation” and intends to do significant renovations, updating it inside and out.

“It’s a good news story, maybe not for the people living there, but it’s going to be good for the area,” Longo said. “It’s a major upgrade for the neighbourhood and for the community.”

He said the new owner is considering a few options including another motel and other accommodations, but he could not elaborate.

Losing The Chipican as a long-term residence for vulnerable people and escalating numbers experiencing homelessness, has prompted Lambton County to work with the Inn of the Good Shepherd and offer 26 temporary “overflow” shelter beds again this winter at the former Laurel Lea St. Matthews Presbyterian Church on Exmouth Street. The same emergency shelter program ran last winter at the vacant church and resumed this week.

Meanwhile, the county’s outreach team has identified between 50 and nearly 70 people sleep outdoors at some point in any given month and lists about 300 who are homeless or precariously housed in Sarnia-Lambton.

Homelessness has skyrocketed locally, as it has across the country, since the pandemic with sharp increases in addictions, mental illness and a lack of affordable housing.



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