‘Nazi’ jibe overshadows shelter debate

An Ottawa Anglican Diocese official is comparing neighbourhood opposition to the relocation of a downtown homeless centre and comments by those opposing it to “Nazi Germany.”

After a heated meeting with area residents Monday night, archdeacon David Selzer is “appalled” by comments describing the homeless.

“There was a huge degradation of people using Centre 454 as human beings,” said Selzer.

“People were saying we ought to get rid of these people, carted away. It sounded like Nazi Germany.”

Centre 454 — currently at 216 Murray St. — serves 250 people daily and operates during the day.

Many downtown residents are opposing its move to St. Alban’s Church at 454 King Edward Ave — where it operated from 1976 to 1999. In 2000, the centre moved to its current spot, but that lease expires at the end of January 2012.

Those opposed to the centre were quick to react to the Archdeacon’s comments.

“The church is attempting to muddy the waters by these outrageous statements,” said Bruce Baker, condo board president at 200 Besserer St. “They serve no useful purpose in trying to come to some agreement and understanding of the community.”

But the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa says it won’t cave to residents.

“It’s coming home,” said Selzer.

The move to St. Alban’s wouldn’t happen until Christmas.

“I totally agree with having these centres but I would prefer to not live right beside one,” said resident Lisa Mouchet.

The area councillor says he’s been kept out of the loop.

“I wasn’t consulted,” said Coun. Mathieu Fleury. “If the Centre wanted to do it properly, they should have come to me.”

That flies in the face of what Mary-Martha Hale, Centre 454’s executive director, told the Sun last week.

“We have engaged with the city councillor,” she said.

Hale switched gears Tuesday.

“We haven’t yet had a discussion but I look forward to meeting the councillor,” she said.

Phoenix Homes is building a condo across the street from St. Alban’s.

“It’s virtually sold out,” said vice-president Rahul Kochar, adding he’s concerned about how buyers will react to the centre since it wasn’t there when the sale was made.

“That doesn’t make me look very presentable as an owner,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fleury said he’s left in a bad situation.

“I can’t prevent it from happening, based on previous bylaws,” he said.

Another meeting to discuss Centre 454’s move is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sandy Hill community centre.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

http://www.ottawasun.com/news/ottawa/2011/03/01/17455931.html

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