City working to support vulnerable residents

OTTAWA – The City of Ottawa is actively working with its partners to identify the needs of the community during the COVID-19 outbreak and to support this vulnerable population.

“The city recognizes the difficult circumstances our residents are facing and we are prepared to respond to those challenges to meet the needs of our community,” city staff released in a statement today (March 20).

 The city has established a Human Services Task Force to ensure it is responsive to the emerging needs of the community. In addition to representatives from city departments and Ottawa Public Health, the task force includes partners from all sectors, including:

  • United Way East Ontario
  • Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa
  • Ottawa Community Housing
  • Ottawa Food Bank
  • Canadian Red Cross
  • The Salvation Army
  • Ottawa Inner City Health

The task force will:

  • Plan how to provide food, housing, shelter and psychosocial supports in future scenarios.
  • Coordinate information, service changes and emerging needs.
  • Resolve issues, service gaps and community concerns.

The task force is currently working on:

Food security

Twenty-three of Ottawa’s 26 food banks are currently open and additional locations are expected to close in the coming weeks due to a lack of volunteers. Information about how to access the food bank is regularly updated on The Ottawa Food Bank is working on alternative pick up locations and increasing the number of volunteers.

Isolated seniors

The Good Companions is closed. Staff have been redirected to essential programs.

The Good Companions’ Senior Centres Without Walls program is ramping up to provide transportation to emergency services, medical appointments and shopping, and to deliver groceries and Meals on Wheels. The city is working to identify further support required for seniors.

Transportation of vulnerable residents to COVID-19 assessment centres and medical appointments

Community partners are assessing the need.

Volunteer management to support community efforts during a pandemic

“We recognize the generosity of those looking to volunteer,” city staff said. “Currently, we are not seeking volunteers to help with the response to COVID-19. However, this is a priority for the city, and we are looking at ways to provide opportunities for those who want to support their community. As Ottawa Public Health has suggested, residents can help by checking in with neighbours and friends who may be vulnerable, overwhelmed, lonely or in need of help.”

The city continues to deliver essential programs and services to support residents.

Employment and social services

Ontario Works financial assistance may be available for basic living expenses and health expenses.

Residents should make requests by phone, not in person. Please call 3-1-1 and press 4 for Social Services. Existing clients can call or email their case worker. Ontario Works clients can use the online tool MyBenefits for any updates. Staff are waiting on further direction on changes to the Employment Insurance program.

Long-Term care

The city’s four long-term care homes are open. 

Staff are following best practices to ensure everyone’s safety, including screening all visitors. Visitors are limited to family visiting residents at end of life or in palliative care. Adult day programs and tours of the homes are cancelled.

Children’s services

Licensed childcare centres, including municipal childcare centres, and EarlyON Child and Family Centres are closed. The city is asking the province about exceptions so essential staff can access childcare.

Housing Services

The city continues to support residents experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless through emergency shelters, support services and outreach.

Households and landlords will get housing allowances and rent supplements one week early to assist with cash flow. There will be no evictions from social housing during this time.

The Social Housing Registry continues to take calls from residents. People fleeing domestic violence can continue to apply for priority housing. Housing providers are checking in with vulnerable tenants over the phone. Visits to the city’s family shelter are limited to specialized services.

Ottawa Inner City Health is visiting shelters with a mobile assessment van and has a nurse on call during evenings and weekends.

On Friday, March 20, the Routhier Community Centre will be converted to a temporary isolation centre for people in the shelter system who are required to self-isolate due to COVID-19. This will help mitigate the spread of the virus within the shelter environment.

The city will consult with Ottawa Public Health to implement best practices for cleaning and maintaining the centre, both as its use as an isolation centre and before it is returned to the City for community use.

The city is exploring options for families who may need to self-isolate due to exposure, symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

Funding for homelessness programs continues. Some agencies are closed, but staff are available by phone. Agencies that are open have reduced staffing, are social distancing and are following strict hygiene procedures.

Please call 2-1-1 for more information on the community, social, government and health services and programs available in Ottawa. While the city is not currently looking for volunteers, residents who want to help can check in with neighbours and friends who may be vulnerable, overwhelmed, lonely or in need of help.