As Salvation Army holds open house, spokesperson admits more consultation could have been done

A Salvation Army spokesperson admits more public consultation could have been done on a proposed community hub project in Vanier.

Area Director of Public Relations, Glenn Van Gulik, told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon that the Salvation Army could have met with the community more often in the time leading up to the unveiling of their controversial proposal at 333 Montreal Road.

“You know what? We could have done more consultation, that is something we could have done,” Van Gulik said. “But we’re trying to make up for it now.”

The Salvation Army hosted a public consultation and open house at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Coventry Road for seven hours Wednesday, to give people a closer look at the proposed $60 million facility.

Van Gulik said he is committed to more consultation with the people of Vanier.

“We’re recognizing that there’s a significant need to be engaged in dialogue and we want to maintain that open dialogue, even after this public consultation, so we can have good, transparent discussions, and figure out how we can best make this work,” Van Gulik said.

LISTEN NOW: Salvation Army says they could have done more consultations

Plans were unveiled in June to open a new community hub on Montreal Road to replace the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter on George Street in the ByWard Market. It would include emergency accommodations, an emergency disaster services team, community and family services, addiction services and a Salvation Army Thrift Store.

Councillor Mathieu Fleury’s office provided a shuttle bus from Vanier to the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre so residents could attend the public consultation and open house.  

About 150 members of SOS Vanier held a rally outside the open house in protest. SOS Vanier is opposed to the Salvation Army’s proposal because they believe it does not “embrace best practices for dealing with homelessness.” SOS Vanier adds locating a shelter on a traditional main street will negatively impact businesses and business investment in the community.

“I have a son who goes to a primary school very close to the place where the shelter will be and I’m concerned about his safety,” says an SOS Vanier member, who identified himself to CFRA’s Kristy Cameron as Phillipe. “I even go sometimes to Montreal Road and I don’t go with my kids because there are too many issues. There is prostitution; there are junkies.”

Other protesters say they’re concerned about the possibility of more crime, traffic, and drug use.

Inside the Conference and Events Centre, a man named Steve wears an SOS Vanier shirt. He says he’s lived in Vanier for 22 years.

“My primary concern is a matter of saturation,” he tells Cameron. “If someone were to do a proper survey of all these kinds of shelters, rehab and addiction services, and the like, they’d realize part of Montreal Road is action central.”

Back outside, holding signs that read “No mega shelters in Vanier,” the SOS Vanier protesters break into song.

“We’re the Vanier army and we will sing out loud. Sally Ann’s a bully and we are Vanier Proud.”