OCA opposes Vanier “mega-shelter”

On behalf of the Overbrook Community Association, please find our comments related to the Governing Council of the Salvation Army in Canada proposed Official Plan Amendment, a Zoning By-law Amendment, and a Site Plan Control application to develop a new multi-purpose facility on 325, 327, and 333 Montreal Road, 334 Montfort Street and 273 Ste. Anne Avenue enclosed.

The Overbrook Community Association is a non-profit, incorporated volunteer organization that continuously works to improve the lives of its residents.  Our Association represents the eastern Ottawa neighbourhood bounded by the Queensway, Rideau River, St. Laurent Blvd and Vanier. Our Association also represents Castle Heights, a community immediately bounded by Vanier to the north.

The Association is opposed to the Salvation Army’s plan to build a 100,000+ square foot complex on Montreal Road in Vanier due to its blatant contravention of the City’s own homelessness policies and its Official Plan and zoning by-laws.

In its most recent 10 year homelessness strategy, the City of Ottawa committed itself to a “Housing First” model, with a purported aim to prioritize housing based on need. Unfortunately, multiple reports on ending homelessness in the City show a continued, persistent use of emergency shelters due to a lack of new affordable housing being built in the City.

For the Housing First model to be effective, people experiencing homelessness must be quickly moved into independent and permanent housing and then provided additional supports and services as needed.  Such a model only works when housing is decentralized, rather than concentrated in one geographical location within a municipality.  Through wider community dispersion, formerly homeless people have achieved better success at integration and becoming a productive part of a community.

Under current provincial legislation, the City has a fiduciary responsibility to undertake planning considerations that ensures strong and healthy communities.  Unfortunately, the establishment of a “mega-shelter” will only encourage more crime and an oversized concentration of poverty in a neighbourhood that for years has been working hard towards improving its quality of life.

The plan sets a bad precedent for the entire City, since the proposal violates the City’s own shelter zoning regulations.  The proposal seeks an exception to the rule that shelters are not permitted on traditional mainstreets, which contradicts the City of Ottawa Official Plan.  The proposal also contradicts the Montreal Road District Secondary Plan, thereby jeopardizing much of the work undertaken on enhancing economic diversity and development in Vanier.

Area and surrounding residents in Overbrook and Castle Heights object to this proposed project because it does not serve the homeless population well, nor does it add to the health and vitality of the communities surrounding it.  We believe the City should pursue its “Housing First” model and reinstate the $4 million of discretionary spending for new affordable housing that it eliminated in 2015. We also believe that the City should refrain from selling off parcels of land that could be allocated to the development of future social housing developments.  We contend that the City should commit to providing a 21st century public social housing solution for its residents, rather than depending on a 19th century private charity shelter model to address the acute, growing homelessness crisis afflicting the City.

As a community bordering Vanier with a large concentration of social housing, Overbrook can attest that “concentration” is a failed policy that should be avoided where possible.  Consequently, we ask the Planning Committee to reject the Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment, and Site Plan Control application.