A Sandy Hill community group is demanding answers after finding out more than $525,000 in taxpayer money was allocated in 2011 for renovations to a homeless drop-in centre without public consultation or approval from city council.
“Surely, for a project as controversial as this, elected officials should’ve been asked their opinion so that the issues could’ve been properly debated and properly debated in the open,” said Keith Nuthall from Neighbours of St. Alban’s.
For more than a year, the group has objected to Centre 454’s return from 216 Murray St. to St. Alban’s church, its original home on King Edward Ave. and Daly Ave.
The centre has around 250 clients of all ages.
Centre 454’s funding application, obtained by the Sun, was sent to the city’s housing services branch on Sept. 8, 2011, the deadline for the federal Homelessness Partnership Strategy grant.
The $525,438 grant was rubber-stamped by the city’s allocation committee later that month.
“It’s federal funding. Somehow, it trickles down to the city and we just share that with whatever the federal government chooses,” said Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury.
“The city is sort of a broker, we’re a transfer agency. Apparently this is common in the social services industry,” said Fleury, adding councillors aren’t consulted because authority is generally delegated to city staff.
Despite the friction between the group and the centre, Fleury was reluctant to criticize the process.
“Should there have been more scrutiny? Perhaps,” said Fleury.
Construction at St. Alban’s began on Feb. 15, and likely won’t be completed until late summer, sources tell the Sun.
The basement, which used to be a chapel, will house offices and open spaces.
Construction estimates for Centre 454’s new digs total $556,300, including a $40,000 gazebo and granite countertops.
“It’s going to be spent on beautifying a garden for the church, it’s going to be spent on interior decoration and plumbing for a centre,” said Nuthall.
That money is better spent on treatment, argues Nuthall.
“It could have bought thousands of meals, hundreds of counselling sessions, and years of medical care for the homeless, administered at Centre 454’s current location, where it works perfectly well at present,” said Nuthall.
Officials from the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa could not be reached for comment Thursday.