Council votes to ask Salvation Army to cap emergency shelter beds in Vanier at 140

City Councillors have voted to have the Salvation Army limit the number of emergency shelter beds in its proposed facility on Montreal Road.

The controversial project was approved by City Council in a vote of 16-7 last November, despite facing considerable opposition from residents and business owners in Vanier.

A motion, moved by Councillors Jean Cloutier and Mathieu Fleury at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, requests written confirmation from the Salvation Army that it will provide no more than 140 emergency shelter beds in its 350-bed facility at 333 Montreal Road.

“Ottawa City Council is seeking written confirmation from the Salvation Army that they intend to honour their stated commitment that the number of permanent shelter beds at this facility will be limited to 140,” the motion reads.

Council carried the motion.

Local business owner Drew Dobson told CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon Tuesday afternoon he was in favour of the motion.

“The City Council has voted to accept a shelter with 140 emergency beds,” he said. “I want to make sure that 140 emergency beds doesn’t creep up on us and turn into 160 and then 170.”

Dobson owns a Montreal Road pub near the site where the Salvation Army plans to build its multi-use facility. He’s also the founder of the group SOS Vanier, which is appealing the Salvation Army project to the Ontario Municipal Board.

“It really makes me suspicious when the Salvation Army is saying ‘No, we don’t want to lock that in.’ It makes me concerned for the future,” Dobson said.

The Salvation Army’s Area Director of Public Relations and Development for the Eastern Region of the Ontario Central East Division, Glenn Van Gulik, told CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon Wednesday that the Salvation Army is comfortable with a cap, but they want flexibility.

“Our concern has always been the need to have the flexibility to manage and meet the demands that are ongoing, that we can’t predict,” Van Gulik said. “We certainly agree that 140 emergency beds is a cap that we are comfortable with, providing that we’ve got the flexibility to respond, as the City directs, to emergency needs that arise.”

Van Gulik cited examples such as cold weather snaps and the arrival of Syrian refugees as the kinds of events that might require extra emergency beds.

Van Gulik said he understands residents are worried that the number of shelter beds may increase, but he feels codifying a cap in the zoning by-law would prevent the Salvation Army from being able to aid the City in times of need.

“Putting this in a by-law would mean that if the City asked us to respond in an emergency, we’d have to go back to City Council,” he said. “We’re saying yes, we will commit to capping at 140 for the permanent, designated emergency shelter beds, provided that the City has the flexibility that if they need us to respond, then we can. But that would be at the City’s discretion, not our own.”