Downtown halfway house closing

00:00:00 | 00:00:00::Projekktor V1.3.09 It’s the beginning of the end for a controversial halfway house in downtown Hamilton. The York Boulevard location directly across the street from Copps Coliseum, City Centre Mall and Farmer’s Market houses convicted sex offenders and violent parolees. Last month, it was announced that cutbacks to corrections officers would allow those living there to sign in and out as they please. But now there’s word the location will close permanently by the end of next year. Lisa Hepfner has been following the developments has the details.First let’s qualify this decision because the Salvation Army building here isn’t going anywhere. The first two storeys are a homeless shelter and most of the men you see regularly standing around in front are residents of those shelter beds. The federal parolees live in 24 beds on the top floor and don’t really mix with the other residents. They have their own smoking area out back, their own security, their own staff. They are the offenders who get out of jail and are turned down by other halfway houses run by boards and organizations.The city asked Corrections Canada to come Wednesday and speak to council. Councillors were concerned because, as you mentioned, the government had plans to remove three corrections officers from the halfway house, and replace them with people with fewer qualifications.There have been incidences over the years, most prominently, in 2004 an offender left the halfway house, walked across the street, and repeatedly stabbed a woman who worked in a framing store, almost killing her. around the same time, there was a sexual assault allegation. since then there have been parolees who left the house without permission and one incident where a parolee was arrested for harrassing and threatening phone calls.So Wednesday, the city wanted to know how Corrections Canada was going to secure the safety of people in downtown Hamilton. But councillors, like Terry Whitehead, were surprised by what they did hear: “To our surprise, when they came in, we did ask a number of questions. They indicated that by the end of 2014, they wont be renewing the lease at that location. We asked if they would go elsewhere in Hamilton, they didn’t answer but what they did say was telling. They indicated that it wouldn’t be fair for the partners theyre negotiating with to divulge that information at this time. I asked, are you talking to Hamilton, they said no. The highest risk individuals are the ones usually housed in Canadian corrections facilities. There are only 3 in Ontario; Kingston, Toronto and Hamilton. We’ve had ours for 20 years.”I spoke with Col. Robert Ward who runs the booth centre for the Salvation Army. He thinks the halfway house has been a good partnership. These inmates have to go somewhere and to him it seemed a good fit to have them share Salvation Army space. He pointed out that the incident at Jackson Square was nearly 10 years ago. But he’s not concerned since the Salvation Army is already talking to others about funded programs they could put in that space when corrections Canada moves out, so he doesn’t expect any financial impact.

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