It was a messy day at city council Tuesday that had the mayor consulting the rule book at various times and multiple points of personal privileges called while members debated funding for Safe Space London.
A motion had been brought forward seeking to reallocate $325,000 meant to fund the London Cares Safe Space London shelter to other agencies in London. The funding in question is part of a one-time investment into city agencies passed late last year as part of the winter response to homelessness.
In the end, the motion failed, allowing the shelter to receive the $325,000 in question, but it was not the cleanest debate this iteration of council has taken part in.
The motion, in the form of an amendment to reallocating other funds, was brought forward by Coun. Susan Stevenson, with her arguing the funding should be reallocated because the shelter can not guarantee to have beds available 24 hours a day while others can.
“The services that we were told would be provided cannot, will not be provided and we have agencies who are ready and willing to offer those services and more right now,” said Stevenson.
The Ward 4 councillor suggested the money be diverted to the Canadian Mental Health Association Thames Valley Addictions and Mental Health Services and the Salvation Army Centre of Hope.
The $325,000 was earmarked for Safe Space London to support 20 overnight drop-in spaces for women only, as Safe Space London focuses on supporting sex workers and their allies, women and gender non-conforming people who are in crisis.
As Safe Space had spent the first few months of 2023 relocating to their new location on Dundas Street, the beds will only now be available beginning Saturday. City staff informed councillors Safe Space could only guarantee beds will be made available for at least 18 hours a day.
Once the motion was on the floor, a question from Coun. Corrine Rahman prompted the in-camera session. Once out of in-camera, a lengthy debate followed, with most councillors taking an opportunity to speak or ask questions.
Couns. Jerry Pribil (who seconded the motion), Steve Lehman and Peter Cuddy voiced support for the motion, arguing taxpayer money should be spent as carefully as possible.
“We are responsible for every penny we spend and every dollar we allocate to different departments,” said Cuddy.
Others, such as Mayor Josh Morgan and Couns. Hadleigh McAlister and Skylar Franke said they opposed the motion. The members argued Safe Space provides needed resources for a vulnerable group and that the community has voiced a desire to continue funding.
“I think if we move forward with this, we will be losing some community trust we’ve been building over the last couple of months,” said Franke.
Coun. Elizabeth Peloza stated that while she opposed the motion, she was happy it had been brought forward so that it would be considered a decided matter of council, as the debate had been reappearing at the committee level for months.
When a motion is passed at council, it is considered a “decided matter” for one year and cannot be reintroduced. About an hour into the debate, when it appeared the votes might not be there for motion, Stevenson and Pribil requested the motion be withdrawn.
However, as Morgan read from bylaw rules, since the debate had started, a majority of councillors would have to agree to the withdrawal for it to happen. When Peloza offered an immediate rejection, it was put to a vote.
The withdrawal motion was defeated 8-7, as Morgan, Franke, McAlister, Peloza, Rahman, David Ferreira, Anne Hopkins, and Sam Trosow voted to keep the debate going.
In the debate that followed the failed motion to withdraw, multiple points of personal privilege were called, with Peloza calling one on Cuddy for referencing her during his turn to speak and Stevenson on Trosow for him taking issue with the amendment only being circulated a couple of hours before the meeting began.
Once the speaker’s list was exhausted, a surprising finale on the debate was offered, with members voting unanimously to defeat the motion brought forward by Stevenson, meaning Safe Space would receive the funding.