Halfway house is finally leaving downtown Hamilton

A controversial downtown halfway house is leaving Hamilton.
Since 2004, Hamilton councillors have wanted a halfway house at 94 York Blvd. moved right out of the city. Corrections Services Canada has confirmed that the facility is moving out of Hamilton. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A controversial downtown halfway house is leaving Hamilton.

Corrections Services Canada has confirmed that it’s closing its halfway house at 94 York Blvd. by the end of the year. It will not relocate it in Hamilton, and its current residents will go to other facilities around Ontario, said Shannon Mills, Corrections Services Canada spokesperson.

Politicians have urged the government to move the halfway house since a near-fatal stabbing in 2004 and late last year, the department went as far as confirming the halfway house would be leaving downtown. It gave strong indications at that time that the facility would be leaving the city altogether.

The federal government will not renew its lease with the Salvation Army, which shares space with the 25-bed halfway house. 

It shouldn't have taken this long, but better late than never.- Larry Di Ianni

For the past 10 years, local politicians have asked the government to move what was initially supposed to be a temporary facility.

The outcry began in 2004, when a resident walked across the street to Jackson Square and stabbed a female shopkeeper. There have also been instances of residents with violent records walking away from the facility.

Council renewed its efforts last year, when it heard that three corrections officers would be pulled from the facility in April 2014 and replaced with one reintegration officer.

In November, Corrections Services officials told council that it wouldn't be renewing its lease with the Salvation Army.

It's good news for the downtown, said Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2, and dispels the notion that the area is unsafe. It's also hard to know if the halfway house scared off development.

"It’s been a concern to both commercial and residential occupants in the immediate vicinity," he said.

Larry Di Ianni, a former mayor who led the charge to get the halfway house moved, called Tuesday's news "a great day."

"It's long overdue, and the federal government did the absolute right thing," he said. 

"It shouldn't have taken this long, but better late than never."

Police are called to the halfway house about 14 times per year, mostly for parole violations.

The lease with the Salvation Army expires on Dec. 31, 2014.

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