Proponents of a homeless shelter here are going back to the drawing board – and starting smaller – after city council rejected their initial plan Tuesday.
Councillors on Tuesday approved without discussion a recommendation by the economic development and planning committee to reject a proposal to use an old city building as a homeless shelter.
The recommendation came last week after planning director Maureen Pascoe Merkley reiterated senior staff's argument the shelter plan is “premature.”
Councillor Leigh Bursey, who argued last week there is a need for a homeless shelter in Brockville, did not exercise the option to remove the recommendation from the so-called “consent agenda” and have a full discussion.
“The fact is that the report the staff filed is actually pretty good,” Bursey said afterwards.
Council's rejection gives shelter proponents time to return with a refined proposal, said Bursey.
Fresh Wind Community Residence Inc., a local volunteer-based non-profit group, submitted a proposal on March 25 to use the former sewage treatment plant administration building on County Road 2 east of the city limits as a homeless shelter.
It asked Brockville to provide the city-owned building, rent-free, for five years; make needed repairs to comply with building, fire and hydro codes; and continue to mow lawns and remove snow.
Planning officials argued the proposed location is too far from services the shelter's users would need, and added the proposal lacks a proper financial plan. Staff also argued there is no hard data proving the need for a shelter.
Bursey maintains there is a local homelessness problem and he plans to help Fresh Wind return with a revised proposal.
“I would actually encourage them to return, because I don't believe there has ever been a more important time,” added Bursey.
Fresh Wind chairwoman Joan Thomas said the group is already looking at its next step.
“We have been already looking around for another building,” she said.
Thomas acknowledged it remains a challenge to provide hard numbers on homelessness.
“There are people who see it as a need, but they can't put a number on it.”
A United Counties of Leeds and Grenville report on the subject, which city staff were awaiting, was presented last week and has no such quantitative data, she said.
Fresh Wind plans to proceed with the shelter in a different form and prove the need exists by seeing it used.
“We need to just go ahead and start with a smaller building and prove our credibility,” said Thomas.
Fresh Wind Community Residence Inc., a local volunteer-based non-profit group hoping to open a homeless shelter in Brockville, will hold fundraising breakfasts for the project this weekend during Brockville's Tall Ships Festival.
Volunteers will serve a variety of breakfast fare from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday by the railway tunnel. The meals will cost $8 per person.