News / Ottawa

Homeless housing complex raises questions in Mechanicsville

Residents say they weren't consulted on a new supportive housing apartment building that John Howard Society will build on Carruthers Avenue.

The city awarded John Howard Society $3.9 million to build a supportive housing complex in Mechanicsville.

Metro file

The city awarded John Howard Society $3.9 million to build a supportive housing complex in Mechanicsville.

Mechanicsville residents are looking for answers as the John Howard Society of Ottawa plans a five-storey supportive housing complex for Carruthers Avenue.

Last December, the charitable organization won $3.9 million in city funding to build the $9-million, 36-unit apartment complex for chronically homeless residents.

The announcement caught the community off guard, said Mechanicsville Community Association past president Blair Simser.

“They’d already bought the place and gotten funding from the government before they even came to us,” Simser said.

Executive director Don Wadel said that’s because the city's bid process is confidential.

He’s catching up now: Wadel’s hosting a joint meeting with Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper on April 11 to clear up any misconceptions.

Since John Howard is involved, residents have wrongly assumed the apartment is for convicts.

“They were in a shelter, not a jail,” Wadel said.

Still, Simser said some residents have concerns about “socio-economic problems” the development might bring.

The small neighbourhood already has “a heck of a lot” of social services. Ottawa Community Housing runs an emergency family shelter on Forward Avenue, for example, and the Youth Services Bureau has a 19-unit residential building nearby.

“It’s not an issue unless you have too much of it,” Simser said.

But Leiper bristled at the suggestion that community housing means trouble.

“I do take exception to classifying the residents in this building as somehow different,” Leiper said. “People are people, and people need to be housed.”

He acknowledged the city should have held a meeting sooner.

The building will have full-time staff present at all hours, Wadel said. He expects the building to open next summer.