Salvation Army shelter proposal heads to final city council vote today

The Salvation Army has proposed replacing its emergency shelter on George Street in the ByWard Market with a new 350-bed facility on Montreal Road in Vanier.

Plan opposed by Vanier businesses and residents, who criticize concentration of social services

An artist's rendering of a proposed new Salvation Army facility on Montreal Road in Vanier. Ottawa city council will vote on the proposal during a Wednesday, Nov. 22 meeting. (Salvation Army)

Ottawa city council is set to vote on the Salvation Army's controversial proposal for a 350-bed shelter on Montreal Road in Vanier.

Despite fierce community opposition, the planning committee cleared the way for the proposal last week, with a 6-3 vote to allow an exception to zoning rules that ban shelters from main streets.

City council could give the proposal its stamp of approval on Wednesday.

The Salvation Army first announced its plan to replace the emergency shelter on George Street in the ByWard Market with the multi-purpose Vanier development back in June. 

The new $50-million facility would take the place of a Salvation Army thrift store and the Concorde Motel at 333 Montreal Rd. The Salvation Army has a deal in place to purchase the property if the zoning change goes through.

Services offered would include 140 emergency shelter beds, addiction services for homeless men, a residential life skills program and beds for medical care, run by Ottawa Inner City Health. 

Council vote follows marathon meeting

Business owners and residents in Vanier have protested the development since it was announced.

The planning committee held a marathon three-day meeting to discuss the plan last week. More than 145 people signed up to speak, most in opposition, and thousands signed petitions against the proposal. 

Drew Dobson, the head of opposition group SOS Vanier, says residents will be disappointed if the plan goes through.

"I think it's going to be deep disappointment and maybe betrayal if that's what happens," he said. "I think the community is going to feel like a second-class citizen in the city, I think they're going to feel like the elected leaders and city staff didn't hear them."

Drew Dobson led the community opposition to the Salvation Army's plan through the group SOS Vanier. (CBC News)

Dobson says he'll be meeting with legal counsel Monday on behalf of SOS Vanier to determine whether appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board is possible if the proposal is passed. 

'You're going to have to look us in the eye'

The Vanier business improvement area, some neighbouring service providers and residents have raised criticism over the size of shelter. They have said it would concentrate social services too heavily in Vanier and hobble the economic revitalization of Montreal Road. 

The Salvation Army has said concentrating services at one location would allow them to offer more continuous help for men who are struggling with homelessness or addiction, and eliminate the need for people to travel to obtain necessary care. 

Dobson says members of SOS Vanier will be present in the gallery as city council votes on the proposal. 

"We'll be the silent conscience, we'll just be there," he said. "If you're going to hobble the economy of Vanier, you're going to have to look us in the eye while you do it."