Salvation Army to slash beds at Vanier shelter

On the eve of a city council vote that could determine the fate of its planned shelter in Vanier, the Salvation Army is proposing to dramatically reduce the number of emergency beds at the facility and cancelling plans to offer addictions treatment there.

"We had said all along that the plan would be evolving," Salvation Army spokesperson Glenn van Gulik said Tuesday.

The charity also plans to bring on an unnamed partner to provide supportive housing for women and children as well as men.

The changes address some of the longstanding concerns of critics who passionately fought the project at city hall in 2017 and are appealing the zoning approval before a provincial tribunal this fall.

As few as 70 emergency beds

The details come the day after the Salvation Army held a community meeting to discuss the project.

The Salvation Army says it remains committed to the 60 medical beds operated by Ottawa Inner City Health, but would reduce the 140 emergency beds by as many as half.

The charity still plans to close its Booth Centre on George Street, but would keep its addictions treatment program in a space rented from Options Bytown.

"We have heard the conversations around the addictions program being in close proximity to the emergency shelter component. And while we feel that we've been successfully managing that until now, we have heard the community's concerns," van Gulik said.

Council votes Wednesday

The timing of the Salvation Army's announcement is being met with skepticism from some critics.

On Wednesday, Coun. Mathieu Fleury will try to convince his colleagues to repeal the previous council's decision to allow the Montreal Road shelter.

But van Gulik denies that was the impetus behind the changes.

"The Salvation Army wants to do the right thing. It wants to be a good partner, like it has been for many, many years, and it wants to be a good neighbour to a community that has that has expressed itself and shared its concerns," he said.

"At our core, we are all about meeting the needs of those who are finding themselves in crisis or in need."

Salvation Army