Response to the Salvation Army’s letter dated July 15th 2017

July 21st, 2017

Dear Mr. van Gulik,

Let me begin by thanking you for your letter dated July 15th, 2017.  You have addressed a number of questions that I had raised in my letter of June 27th, 2017.

It is apparent to me through this letter, and other public remarks you have made on behalf of the Salvation Army, that your organization has decided not to halt or reconsider your planning submission to the City of Ottawa with respect to a new large-scale emergency shelter service centre at 333 Montreal Road. Once again, I am asking you to reconsider your proposal.

As I have stated publicly, I feel the need to clarify some of the comments contained in your letter about how this proposal to relocate from the Booth Centre on George Street has evolved over the last several years.

Let me begin, by stating in no uncertain terms, I am and have always been opposed to the proposal to relocate to 333 Montreal Road.  On both a theoretical and practical level, I do not believe this site is an appropriate location for a large-scale service centre.

In your letter, you suggest that the proposed facility is not a relocation of services currently offered at the Booth Centre.  While the design is a new “Hub”, which has been publicly described as a state of the art, and a proven model at other locations across North America, it is apparent that it contains the same combination of services as what is currently offered on George Street. It does not incorporate the decentralized and geographically balanced approach advocated by experts. While you cite a decentralization of services in the market – a priority we all share – the proposal as presented publicly does not do this; rather it recentralizes those services in a new, equally vulnerable neighbourhood.

While I have stated repeatedly that public consultations are required, the lack of presence by your team to engage the community at large spurred the strategic discussions that my team hosted last week. These were important sessions that enabled us to share the facts and context with our community.  As the municipal representative, I responded to the needs and requests of the residents in my community.  It was at their appeal for clarity on context and process that my team organized these sessions.

On a different note, the term “consultation” has been used liberally within your letter, and significantly within your recent media interviews. I would like to clarify the facts, in our many meetings over the last seven years, when Montreal Road was suggested, I was undoubtedly opposed to the location and highlighted the need for public consultation for any site selection.

As a reminder, I do not believe that your services should be concentrated in one location, no matter the location.

In your letter, you emphasized specific time periods on meetings with my office regarding potential sites, without full context. These conversations were initiated years prior as part of the 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan report approval. As an organization looking to submit a proposal, it is your duty to engage with the communities and we are here to facilitate those connections. We cannot proceed with any discussions around an intent without your consent, and also without the purchase offer for a site which occurred much later than the suggested November 2015 period. In 2015, what we discussed was your interest in investing in our City to construct a purpose built emergency shelter, but not much more beyond conceptual discussions around the city’s needs in housing and supports and your interest in the Montreal Road location. I wasn’t willing to accept this as a location so I continued my efforts to propose alternative sites but experienced your reluctance to consider any other options. Typically, an applicant engages with the community association upon acquiring a site, which I strongly encouraged, albeit my opposition to your proposed location.

Within my role as City Councillor, I have requested a list of City owned lands from the Real Estate Department, and would be glad to sit and review those options with you and the community.

I have chosen to work closely with your organization on the current Booth Centre location, advocating for the creation of dedicated smoking section for your clients only and the need for an ongoing security team at the Booth Centre. We have struggled with engagement and leadership from Salvation Army National management regarding the ongoing issues around the Booth Centre. From August 2016 to April 2017, I experienced the reluctance from national management to meet in Ottawa to address issues around the existing facility.  Despite progress and financial investments, the security situation remains a considerable challenge.

You have referenced earlier meetings we had regarding interest in the 333 Montreal Road site. Again, I feel it is imperative to clarify the discussion during that period, as you seem to confuse my support for the financial investment, which is desirable and needed, as support for the Montreal Road location.

I recognize that the status quo is not an option for our most vulnerable residents and I welcome the $30 million investment in our City from the Salvation Army. However, it is imperative that we do not repeat the mistakes of a large-scale facility with multiple service points.

Since our initial encounters, I have always been clear and have consistently remained opposed to your proposal to move to 333 Montreal Road.

In our discussions over the last seven years, the Salvation Army has demonstrated their struggle to adapt to the needs of the most vulnerable residents in Ottawa and to reflect the best research practices in the sector.

Despite your assertions, in our recent meetings, you were not asked to delay your process when I informed you I was away in early June. I would never have suggested that you not proceed with community engagement and consultations.

I maintained throughout our meetings and conversations the need for an open dialogue with residents and the community.  This, frankly, has not occurred and you continue to shirk your responsibility to identify dates and locations to host public consultations regarding your submission.

Despite the continued misinterpretation of our working history, I remain open and willing to participate in a constructive dialogue to improve and diversify services, including harm reduction strategies and opportunities for our City’s most vulnerable community members. It is not my goal to fight with your organization, which is working hard to provide much needed supports. However, I am here to represent the community’s interest which I feel have not been integrated in your proposal.

As you have acknowledged before, I am the person who best understands the needs and diversity of our community. Their recent concerns and feedback, which you have been privy to, demonstrate the gap your team has in understanding our community’s efforts in making Vanier a more vibrant community. Once again, I highly encourage you to reconsider your site selection and consider a decentralization of services to multiple locations within our City.

Sincerely,

 

Mathieu Fleury

City Councillor|Conseiller municipal

Ward |Quartier 12 (Rideau-Vanier)

(613) 580-2482

mathieu.fleury@ottawa.ca