Condo dwellers balk at homeless centre

Board members of an upscale downtown condominium don’t want a homeless drop-in centre in their neighbour’s backyard.

“It’s just the wrong place in our mind to put this,” said Bruce Baker, condo board president of the Galleria at 200 Besserer St.

Plans by the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa to move Centre 454 from its current location at 216 Murray St. to St. Alban’s Anglican Church — its original home on King Edward Ave. between Besserer St. and Daly Ave. — will create problems in the revitalized downtown neighbourhood, Baker said.

“We already have a lot of social services and to put it literally in our backyard, not figuratively, is not the best for either 454 or for the residents of the community,” Baker said, adding the lack of consultation is perplexing.

But the centre’s administration said there has been consultation.

“We have engaged with the city councillor and asked for a meeting with the mayor,” said Mary-Martha Hale, executive director at Centre 454.

The current lease for the centre on Murray St. expires at the end of January 2012.

It could relocate to the church by Christmas.

The announcement to move the centre was made Feb.12 and is part of a settlement with the Anglican Diocese and a breakaway group, the Anglican Network in Canada.

Centre 454 operated out of St. Alban’s from 1976 to 1999 then leased its current spot.

Baker said it won’t be a sweet homecoming.

“The type of people in the neighbourhood bought it expecting it to be a certain way,” said Baker.

Construction is underway at Galleria2, a condo next door at 238 Besserer St., which will border the church’s garden.

Units are priced from $230,000.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the neighbourhood as it’s developed and grown over the years,” said Kevin Yemm, a planner at Richcraft, the builder.

A lot of seniors and young women live in the area.

“And you know, some of them are intimidated by congregations of homeless people,” said Baker.

University of Ottawa student Brittany Franchuk lives in the neighbourhood.

“I feel by the Metro there’s lots of homeless people there who are hanging out. So I think if there’s somewhere to go, that would clean up the streets a bit and make it more comfortable for everybody,” she said.

The church is steeped in history. Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was a parishioner.

“I don’t think it’s the right spot for a centre in a beautiful heritage centre. I don’t see the two uses going together,” Yemm said.

Both sides will attend a meeting on Feb. 28 at the Sandy Hill community centre to discuss the relocation.

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