Fortier, Collard and Fleury: Salvation Army still isn’t listening to its Ottawa neighbours

As the elected officials of Vanier representing the federal, provincial and municipal levels, we were taken aback by this article from the Salvation Army. Having all been heavily involved in this file over the years, we are shocked to read a language that is not consistent with what has been presented to our community regarding the plan put forward by the Salvation Army.

At a stage where the Salvation Army’s proposed new centre is the subject of consultations with the community about its programming, this letter needs to be called for what it is. It is a lame attempt to mislead the public that Vanier is against helping our most vulnerable.  We welcome investments that will be focused on rapid-supportive housing and housing first approaches. We welcome supports for families and individuals. And we certainly welcome adapting our social services to better support individuals in the face of a pandemic. This is exactly why we have been so involved in providing recommendations to make this mega-shelter proposal more inclusive of the changing needs of our City and our community. To say the Salvation Army has taken these principles into consideration to date would be false. 

In addition, now that social services providers already established in Vanier are being consulted about the proposed programming, it has been pointed out that the Salvation Army is trying to duplicate services that already exist. Vanier residents and community partners know the local needs, understand their neighbourhood, and have been offering their recommendations. The Salvation Army might be considering bringing services for the entire City, but this should not come at the expense of the already respected and long-serving organizations. This is another example that the Salvation Army is going the wrong way by not working in collaboration with the existing services.

The Salvation Army defines its proposed project as critical for the neighbourhood. It is important to understand better what is proposed and what are considered essential services for the community in this day and age. Our community needs a minimal amount of shelter beds and a priority in providing permanent and supportive housing. Sadly, the plan put forward does not correspond to such models. Instead, the largest service offered at the proposed site are shelter beds, with only 32 of the 211 proposed bedrooms having residential leases for individuals. 

COVID has put us in front of complex realities, which we all need to consider. The time to change is now. When relocating services, they must reflect the current and future needs of the community. Therefore, to be considered critical for the community, there needs to be a rethink with the current proposal that would focus on housing, permanent, stable housing needs, and more heavily on long-term support services with long-term objectives.

Indeed, the Salvation Army site on George Street is not accessible for women and families. However, the reason is not related to the concentration of shelters in the downtown area, as mentioned in the article. The reason is simply that the Salvation Army’s housing services do not welcome women and families. Currently, the proposed site on Montreal Road does not accept women or families in its shelter, limiting many housing-related support services. For this reason, the language used in this article is highly misleading. It’s been made clear that beyond the existing Community and Family Service Program, no new programs will be open to the broader community since its services are strictly for single men.

Repeatedly, the Salvation Army has let their future potential Vanier neighbours down. This must end. The vision put forward must be reflected in the proposal for 333 Montreal Road. We urge the Salvation Army to do what’s necessary to make their proposal a welcome addition to the community. 

That, too, should be put on the record.

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Mona Fortier, Member of Parliament, Ottawa—VanierLucille Collard, Member of Provincial Parliament, Ottawa—Vanier Mathieu Fleury, Councillor, Rideau-Vanier