John Howard Society in the Glebe Annex

By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, September 2023)

The John Howard Society (JHS) moved into their new Glebe Annex building in December 2022. Since then, while gestures of goodwill by both the community and the society have helped build positive and constructive relationships, there have been some difficulties along the way, and continuing adjustment has been needed.

In 2016, the Glebe Annex learned that a parking lot at the corner of Carling and Bell Street South (then 289 Carling, now 401 Bell Street South) was going to host supportive housing units for the chronically homeless. While the proposal made many people uneasy and some outright opposed, the project went ahead. The John Howard Society was announced as the successful proponent in 2019, and after two years of construction, staff and tenants moved into the new building in December 2022.

Joshua Bridges, the onsite residential coordinator, and his team have worked hard to integrate his tenants into the neighbourhood, providing regular updates during and after construction, trying to make adjustments when needed. Shortly after opening, Bridges organized an open house for neighbours to tour and learn about the facility. For its part, the community did its best to welcome its new residents. The Glebe Annex Community Association (GACA) and the neighbouring Lakelander condominium organized and distributed welcome packages, and a Glebe resident spearheaded a campaign to donate skates for the new residents, given the building’s proximity to Dow’s Lake.

Several Glebe Annex residents have expressed safety concerns, partly due to the increase in police presence in the area. Ryan Hampel is GACA’s new safety representative and is keeping a watchful eye on safety concerns in the neighbourhood, including the impact of the JHS.

Among those directly impacted are residents of the Lakelander condominiums, located next to the JHS. JHS residents and visitors have used their parking spaces and taken shortcuts through the property. Nearby residents also bear witness to some disturbing behaviour, including altercations with residents and residents suffering from substance abuse or mental illness. Drug paraphernalia has also been found in the area.

There have also been safety issues in the new building such as fires in the units and health emergencies, which have led to emergency vehicles blocking access to the Lakelander parking lot. Lakelander residents are working to help alleviate the problem. Representatives met with the JHS and the community police officer, put up signs about parking and access and instituted a “if you see something, say something” policy which encourages people to call the police or notify the JHS, depending on what they witnessed. These measures are helping – while there are still incidents, people are better equipped to handle situations, and parking and trespassing issues have improved at the condominium.

“While the integration of some new residents of JHS and their visitors has been a bit bumpy,” says Lakelander resident Sylvia Milne, “we’re pleased to report that most issues have been satisfactorily resolved.” Increased security and signage have helped, and the building is closing off public access to its pathway on the northern part of the property. Milne notes that even before the JHS complex was built, the pathway was “a source of concern for the security and privacy of residents on the ground floor and, in fact, our close neighbours.”

The JHS also has reviewed it own situation, looking at policies and procedures as well as additional supports for residents to give them the best chance of maintaining their housing. Bridges and his team have also been responsive to complaints, sending out a team to clean up garbage and cigarette butts, for instance, after complaints regarding littering.

While issues persist, the community is working together to make things work and keep the Glebe Annex the great community that it is. It is a safe community, and the neighbourhood is justifiably in demand as a place to live. We are a vibrant and connected community and continue to work together to keep our community safe and enjoyable for all.

Photo:

Residential Coordinator Joshua Bridges (left) with Client Connections Specialist Ross Wilson at the JHS front desk

The John Howard Society at 401 Bell Street South

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