New Shepherds of Good Hope building leads to increased crime

The exterior of the Shepard’s of Good Hope building in the winter.
Residents are complaining that a new Carlington-area shelter has led to increased crime. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack 

Carlington residents are reporting increased crime and open drug use a year after the opening of a Shepherds of Good Hope building that is home to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. 

The supportive housing residence at 1095 Merivale Road opened in May 2023 and provides lodging to 53 residents who have experienced chronic homelessness. It features studio apartments, a community kitchen and large greenspace. 

River ward councillor Riley Brockington said he’s received over 440 emails from concerned residents since the building opened, and is working to ensure Shepards is aware of the growing call for action. 

“I’m not trying to suggest that everything going wrong in the neighborhood is because of residents from one building,” he said. “Carlington — like many other urban neighborhoods — has its challenges. But since the residence opened, the number of reported incidents in the community has gone up.”

A public meeting was held in December during which dozens of outspoken residents raised issues. They had hoped the Shepherds of Good Hope would take their concerns seriously, but little has changed. 

According to Brockington, parcels have been stolen from porches, windows have been smashed and cars broken into. There have also been reports of aggressive panhandlers and confrontations when they are asked to leave. 

“People are caught in backyards and sheds. Someone was followed into Alexandria Park. Syringes are everywhere and open drug deals have been seen,” he said. “People are ringing doorbells asking for money. St. Elizabeth Parish now has police because parishioners were confronted during mass. Money was taken out of collection baskets.”

Shepards not to blame, organization says 

Shepherds of Good Hope told KT they are aware of the issues reported, but don’t believe the increased crime is a result of their new building. . 

“I don’t believe the increase in crime is attributable to Shepherds of Good hope. That said, we are part of the community and we want to be part of the solution,” said Ali Campbell, Vice President, Programming and Capital Infrastructure at Shepherds of Good Hope. “If crime is happening, we want to be aware of that and how we can support the community.”

Campbell said crime across all municipal wards in Ottawa is increasing, and that given the moment of time we are living in, there are many elements of society that are contributing to social disorder. 

Brockington said that’s an inadequate response. 

“There is a denial stage going on here. We are almost a year in and I can’t get the Shepherds of Good Hope to even acknowledge that some of their residents are causing issues,” he said. 

The social service organization is now in the planning stages of demolishing an old house on its Merivale property to make way for a fourth supportive housing facility in the area. 

The proposed six-storey building would accommodate 70 individuals. The project is possible due to the federal housing fund aimed at supporting affordable housing initiatives. In April, Brockington brought forward a motion to city council requesting it look at the “cumulative effect and community impact” before any money flows. It passed 18-7. 

“I’d like to see affordable and supportive housing move forward in the city. We absolutely need it and Ottawa needs to do its share,” said Brockington. “The rhetorical question is why would you facilitate any expansion when you haven’t addressed or put to bed some of the outstanding issues? I’m not going to be made to look like an ogre for standing up for my community.” 

The city’s hands are essentially tied as the development does not require any permissions. 

Campbell wants to reassure concerned Carlington residents that all its clients are working with support services. She said open drug use is not encouraged in the community, and if a crime is witnessed, it should be reported to police. 

“Within the housing-first model, it does support a harm reduction approach. For those people who use drugs, we would actually want them to be doing that within the building where we have staff on site 24/7,” said Campbell. “We work quite closely with residents so they understand the community does not want to see this.”

A map showing where incidents of crime occurred.
A map showing reported criminal activity in the area since January 2024.

By the numbers

A Carlington map breakdown on the Ottawa Police website showed over 70 reported crimes in the area where the Shepherds building is since January 2024. Many appear to be for theft under $5,000, with a few assaults and crimes against property also reported. 

In 2022, River ward as a whole showed a 12.3 per cent increase in crime reported compared to 2021. That included 394 reported crimes against a person, 1,275 crimes against property, and 149 other criminal code violations. 

There were 27 total drug offenses reported in the ward in 2022 compared to 21 the previous year. In 2022 River Ward also reported 10 cases of arson, 143 break and enters, 72 cases where theft of a mobile vehicle occurred, and 163 cases of mischief.  

Leave a comment