Salvation Army sticks with Vanier shelter plan despite backlash

Despite growing opposition, the Salvation Army says it will not halt its rezoning application to turn a rundown Vanier motel into a new $50-million homeless shelter.

The Salvation Army says its new $50M shelter could benefit Vanier

Hundreds of Vanier residents showed up at an information meeting July 10 to voice opposition to a Salvation Army homeless shelter on Montreal Road. (CBC News)

Despite growing opposition, the Salvation Army says it will not halt its rezoning application to turn a rundown motel into a new $50-million homeless shelter in the heart of Vanier.

"This is where our clients are. This is where we are best positioned to do the work we need to do," said Salvation Army spokesperson Glenn Van Gulik.

He made his remarks one day after hundreds of residents showed up at a meeting to find out how they can stop the proposed development at 333 Montreal Rd.

Last month, the social services agency unveiled plans to close its shelter in the ByWard Market and build a new 103,000-square-foot multipurpose facility in Vanier.

In addition to being a shelter for homeless men, the new facility will house medical services, job training, a cafe and disaster relief services.

The proposed Salvation Army shelter would replace the Concorde Motel at 333 Montreal Rd. in Vanier. (Submitted image, Judy Trinh/CBC)

'Look at different sites'

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury sent a letter to Salvation Army two weeks ago asking them to hit the pause button for 60 days to allow the city to find a more suitable location.

The 60-day wait proposal is also supported by Vanier's elected federal and provincial representatives, Fleury said.

"We are asking them for a halt on the process to allow our community to look at different sites," said Fleury, who also wants the Salvation Army to downsize its plans and break apart the services it plans to offer in the new development.

... One location will not work, no matter where it is. We need to look at multiple sites and multiple service points.- Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury

In particular Fleury is concerned about putting treatment services in the same building as a homeless shelter.

"Imagine you're in detox and you're trying to get away from drug use and right outside your window you have your drug dealer and your friends doing drugs," said Fleury.

"What it highlights to me is that one location will not work, no matter where it is. We need to look at multiple sites and multiple service points."

In hopes of making his proposal more palatable to other city wards, Fleury is also recommending that a shelter not be allowed on a main road in any of the city's 19 business improvement areas.

'We need to move forward'

But the Salvation Army doesn't want to delay its plans any longer. Van Gulik said that over the past seven years, the agency has worked with city staff, real estate consultants and other social services to find an ideal space.

The Montreal Road location is the only site that was both available and practical because it's within a 30-minute walking distance of 70 per cent of its clients.

"To halt that process again and to wait for consultation to occur about another site, we're just not prepared to do that. We need to move forward because it's the right property," he said.

The Salvation Army knows it needs to bring many people on side and is preparing to answer questions in wider public consultations in the fall, Van Gulik said. In the meantime, the organization is meeting privately with businesses and community groups.
The homeless shelter on George Street ranks among the top five sites in Ottawa where police are called. The Salvation Army plans to close it down and sell the property to pay for its new site on Montreal Road. (CBC News)

Among the major concerns is that crime will flow into Vanier. The current Salvation Army shelter on George Street is consistently on the list of Ottawa's top five locations where police are called.

The Salvation Army has plans to address the safety concerns and hopes Vanier residents will listen with an open mind, Van Gulik said, adding that he believes the new shelter could be an economic boon for the area.

"Having 140 employees plus 60-odd volunteers come in every day supporting economic development, we feel, is a great contribution to the growth and benefit of Montreal Road," he said.

After consultations, the city's planning committee needs to debate the proposal and council needs to approve the project before ground can be broken.