OC Transpo has known about illegitimate clothing donation boxes on city property for at least six months but hasn’t acted quickly to remove them, according to the head of a struggling not-for-profit group.
“They didn’t bother to check it out,” said Ottawa Neighbourhood Services president Patricia Lemieux, adding her staff have repeatedly been told the city would “look into it,” then been given “the runaround.”
According to documents obtained by the Sun, on March 11 an OC Transpo employee told Neighbourhood Services four boxes placed by businesses at the Eagleson Rd. park and ride were supposed to be removed.
“OC Transpo has the right. They can physically remove it themselves,” Lemieux said.
The Eagleson bins are now gone, but there are still some at other park-and-ride-lots, Lemieux said, adding there’s confusion at City Hall as to whose mandate it is.
On Friday the city’s media relations department didn’t address the Sun’s specific inquiries about OC Transpo’s record of complaints, only saying “311 has received five calls from residents related to this issue, and the Mayor and Coun. (Allan) Hubley have been actively engaged on this file.”
The lackadaisical approach angers Lemieux, who says businesses fronting as charities are taking clothing donations — which Neighbourhood Services also collects — and re-selling them, putting Lemieux’s not-for-profit group in deeper financial trouble.
Lemieux says her organization is instrumental in the community and has good relations with the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — charities she praises for also helping Ottawa residents.
For-profit businesses, however, get no love.
“We have to pay overhead, heat, hydro,” Lemieux said.
“Where do they put their clothes? Where is their warehouse?”
Bins recently discovered at Jack Charron Arena, after residents filed complaints about four yellow Jubilee Merchandising boxes, have since been removed by the company.
But that didn’t happen until Hubley went in person and started asking questions.
“No one except for Neighhourhood Services has permission to be on city property,” said Hubley.
As for the other boxes, owners are “being advised to remove them or the city will remove it for them.”
Hubley wants a solid plan in place.
“These people that are doing this are taking advantage of the good will of the citizens of Ottawa, and that bothers me. They’re taking away from good charities.”
While city management sorts it out, the bins — some labeled, others bare — continue to dot city property as clothing donations steadily pile up.