Homeless shelters in Ottawa’s ByWard Market area have been labelled a “cancer” by a group of local businesses, whose online petition against them has sharply divided the community.

The “Save Our Market” petition was launched last week by local business owner Patrick O’Shaughnessy, who says three homeless shelters in the area have cost local businesses “tens of millions annually” in direct and indirect costs. “The shelters, in their current configuration, must be diagnosed for what they are – a cancer which is now terminal for those residents and businesses in their vicinity,” O’Shaughnessy writes on the petition website.