I decided to support the new Salvation Army facility proposed for 333 Montreal Road. I feel that I should share my thinking on the issue.
There has been a long and arduous debate on the worth of the facility and the delivery model. I could write pages on the pros and cons. Succinctly put, I feel that the proposed facility is not at odds with the “housing first” model, and that the size of the facility is a virtue and not a flaw. Currently, waiting lists for subsidized housing programs are out of control. The proposed facility is not a mere “shelter”. It does provide emergency shelter beds, but also the steps to obtaining sustained housing. “Housing first” and the proposed facility are not mutually exclusive or at odds, they fill different roles and complement each other. In regards to size, a smaller and decentralized approach would significantly increase the cost to deliver the same services, as the Salvation Army would need to pay for the property costs, maintenance costs and administrative costs for multiple sites. On a service delivery level, spreading out the services would create a major obstacle for homeless or at risk individuals that require a multi-faceted and holistic approach to their treatment and support. Having to spend an entire day going back and forth on public transit to make various appointments and obtain support is a significant barrier for many people, especially those that are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness. A disadvantaged person can find all of the required support needed in a “one stop shop” for their services.
This is the culmination of a long effort to relocate the George Street Salvation Army facility. This new facility is purpose built, and on a scale large enough to manage the issues that have been the George Street location. It will not be overwhelmed and we will do everything in our power to ensure the facility does not result in a concentration of poverty. My colleagues and I will not be leaving the community of Vanier to deteriorate and crumble. This is not a half-measure, or a replication of an outdated shelter like those that have been employed before. This facility will be unique and the diverse programs housed within have an emphasis on rehabilitation, and creating positive forward momentum for clientele.
There were a great number of Vanier residents who came forward to voice their concerns, and it is a great burden to have them shoulder. The pushback was very visible and clear, but it is important to remember that the people who would benefit from the Salvation Army facility have no political sway. They are not able to book off a day to speak in front of the Planning Committee. To many they do not warrant a second look. Instead of protest signs they are busy making signs to plead for change and food. It is not my intention to discount the views of Vanier residents or imply they do not care about the plight of those who struggle with homelessness. I can understand the stress and pain that would come with having a facility like this brought into your backyard. I hope that they can understand the thinking of the Councillors that supported the new facility. We have followed the file closely, with either myself or staff attending the Open House and being present for the testimonies shared at Planning Committee. We believe that the model and general approach of the Salvation Army is a tremendous opportunity for the city, and that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Moving forward the Salvation Army will have to step up to manage many of the concerns expressed by residents. I believe they are up to the job. The city will help during the transition phase to help mediate and find compromise.