Four questions ahead of the Salvation Army debate
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What’s happening this week?
The Salvation Army’s controversial proposal to relocate from George Street in the market to 333 Montreal Road, is heading to planning committee. To put a shelter on the site, they will need a handful of zoning and planning amendments. Planning committee has set aside up to three days to hear from the public, culminating with a vote at some point this week.
What are each side’s positions?
Many Vanier residents are opposed to the plan, and have Coun. Mathieu Fleury's support. They contend both the city’s official plan technically forbids a shelter on that street, the city's lawyer disagrees, and that a concentration of social services in Vanier will be detrimental to the neighbourhood.
City staff are supporting the proposal, saying it's an appropriate relocation and design, and the community’s concerns it will negatively impact the character of the neighbourhood are overblown.
Housing experts have also raised issues with the "mega-shelter" model that the Salvation Army is adopting, saying it's not the best way to deliver social services.
All this for one shelter relocating?
In some sense, the Salvation Army application has become a proxy for a larger debate about the city’s approach to homelessness. On the one hand, the city has been pushing a ‘housing first’ policy—the idea that ending homelessness should start with permanent housing. On the other, housing first has not yet eradicated homelessness in Ottawa, and there is still a need for emergency shelter beds, of which the shelter will have 140.
Coun. Jan Harder, who chairs the planning committee, is a stickler for procedure and will more than likely keep the debate to specific questions about the application, rather than an open-floor debate on housing more generally.
Is this the final debate on the matter?
If approved by committee this week, it will go to council later in November. Coun. Mathieu Fleury has been working behind the scenes to marshal support to kill the project, but even if he can’t get enough votes, he has said that an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board is not off the table. The Salvation Army were not available to comment on whether they were preparing for a potential OMB appeal.
So, don't bank on this being the last you hear on this one.