Sarnia City Council is getting what may be its last chance to avoid a costly legal battle–at least $40,000 according to "best case" estimates–if it can find a seconder to a motion to reconsider an earlier decision to attempt to force the closure of the River City Vineyard homeless shelter.
A petition with at least 500 names in support of having the Harbour Inn homeless shelter remain open has been presented to Mayor Mike Bradley.
The issue will be raised at next Monday's (June 25) meeting where the opportunity for a motion to reconsider could be made. With Councillor Andy Bruziewicz being the only councillor to vote against the city's impending court action should River City not close the shelter by the end of July, that reconsideration would be dead in the water unless another councillor seconds the motion.
Mayor Bradley has said unless there is a request for a recorded vote, he will not be able to help move the motion forward.
Ron Smith, a local resident who helped facilitate the gathering of the petition and presented it to Bradley on Monday, said he was told by the mayor that the number of complaints received by police is not large. In fact, compared with calls regarding other areas of the city, including Lambton Mall, it is low.
The River City Vineyard homeless shelter issue began when the church decided to go for a permanent rezoning of the property to allow for its Harbour Inn operation to remain open, in spite of the opening of the Good Shepherd Lodge, which is part of the Inn of the Good Shepherd's operation.
When the city refused to provide that permanent rezoning, River City initially said it would appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. It then retracted that appeal, saying it had the right to remain open as a church doing what churches have done for centuries–provide sanctuary to those who need it.
Regardless of the legal action, it is unlikely that River City's homeless shelter will close anytime soon, given the prospect of an appeal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or other means a legal team, said by River City officials to have been assembled on a pro bono basis, may determine.