Decision day: vote expected on contentious Vanier shelter

A decision on the Salvation Army's proposal to build a 350-bed shelter in Vanier is expected late Friday night, the third day of a marathon meeting of Ottawa's planning committee.

93 delegations signed up to speak on 3rd day of marathon meeting

A proposed 350-bed Salvation Army facility on Montreal Road in Vanier has met with massive community resistance. (Salvation Army)

It's a proposal so contentious it's spurred on more people to make the trek down to Ottawa City Hall to get their views on the record than has any other file in recent municipal memory.

Over a three-day planning committee meeting that began Tuesday, more than 170 delegations signed up to speak about the Salvation Army's proposal to build a 350-bed facility on Montreal Road in Vanier.

So many clamoured to have their voices heard that the sign-up sheet was withdrawn at 5 p.m. Wednesday, the first time anyone at City Hall can remember having to take that step. More than 90 people are scheduled to speak Friday, and the meeting could go late into the night.

Resident packed Ottawa City Hall's council chamber for the first two days of a the three-day debate. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

There have been some prominent supporters of the Salvation Army's plan, including Dr. Jeff Turnbull and Wendy Muckle of Ottawa Inner City Health, and Deidre Freiheit of Shepherds of Good Hope.

There was also a moving deputation from Julius Bango, a current client of the Salvation Army's life skills program. You can hear what he told councillors here.

But the vast majority of speakers are against the plan, arguing it would bring too many vulnerable people into an already struggling community. Some also believe the Salvation Army's programs are a misguided way to help the homeless.

However under the strict scope of the planning committee, none of those issues matter: the Salvation Army proposal requires exemptions to two of the city's planning policies because shelters are not allowed on main streets such as Montreal Road, and the committee has done its best to keep comments to that narrow topic.

The third day of the meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in council chambers. After councillors hear from the last public delegation, they will debate the contentious issue and vote on it, then send it to council for final approval.

Files from Joanne Chianello, Laura Osman and Judy Trinh