Salvation Army balks at proposed 140-bed cap in new Vanier shelter
It’s hard to predict what the social need will be in future years, says spokesman
The Salvation Army isn’t keen on the idea of the city ’s regulating the number of shelter beds in a social services complex the organization plans to construct in Vanier.
Glenn van Gulik, spokesman for the Salvation Army, said the organization believes council has already addressed the planning questions through the November 2017 vote approving the necessary land-use changes for 333 Montreal Rd.
The Salvation Army is “comfortable” with the council-directed restriction of 801 square metres for the shelter, van Gulik said. Ideally, the Salvation Army won’t need to have 140 shelter beds, but it’s hard to predict what the social need will be in future years, he said.
Council actually reduced the shelter’s gross floor area from the staff-recommended 900 square metres.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury has told council members that on Wednesday he’ll ask them to support a cap of 140 emergency shelter beds in the shelter, which would be part of a larger complex.
Fleury said he wants the Salvation Army to “reaffirm” to the public that 140 will be the maximum number of shelter beds, while urging the city to hold the organization to that commitment.
City clerk and solicitor Rick O’Connor said that first it will take three-quarters of council members present to vote in favour of considering Fleury ’s motion, since council already approved the zoning amendments for the Salvation Army.
Council voted 16-7 last November to change the zoning bylaw and official plan to allow the Salvation Army to build a shelter and social services complex at the Montreal Road property. The Salvation Army wants to relocate its Booth Centre from the ByWard Market.
Businesses have appealed council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, with financial help from community group SOS Vanier.
Last month, council approved a motion that ensures any future attempt to expand the area of the shelter must come to planning committee and council, but opponents of the development worry council hasn’t gone far enough to regulate the Salvation Army’s bed count in the shelter.
Drew Dobson, the organizer of SOS Vanier, said the councilapproved restriction on the size of the shelter would actually allow more beds under the city’s own shelter standards.
The standards say sleeping areas in a shelter must give each adult 3.5 square metres of space, not including the 0.75-metre separation distance from the edges. An 801-square-metre shelter could provide up to 228 beds under those guidelines.
Dobson also flagged a letter from the Salvation Army’s lawyer suggesting the 140-bed figure in the original planning application is a “demonstration” and that the actual number will vary over time.
“That disappointed me and made me very concerned,” Dobson said.
It’s in the Salvation Army’s interests to commit to the 140-bed cap for the shelter, Dobson said. “I think they run at a danger that, if they don’t support it, they look hypocritical,” he said.
At the same time, Dobson said he has asked the city to give the Salvation Army flexibility to add beds in the shelter under critical circumstances, such as during a cold snap when homeless people need somewhere warm to sleep.
Opponents of the Salvation Army’s plan have been eagerly awaiting a housing and homelessness report for council’s community and protective services committee to provide feedback on how the city funds shelters. City staff are gathering input before they undertake a review of the 10-year homelessness plan at the halfway point in 2019. The plan was implemented in January 2014.
Coun. Diane Deans, who chairs the community and protective services committee, agreed with a request from Mayor Jim Watson on Monday to put off the report one month until a meeting in March so it aligns with a separate report coming from Coun. Mark Taylor, who is the mayor’s liaison on housing and homelessness issues.
Glenn van Gulik