By Tyler Fleming
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa Councillor is calling on the City of Ottawa to open a recreation facility to provide daytime respite for those struggling with homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Somerset Councillor Catherine McKenney will ask the City’s Human Needs Task Force to consider opening the Plant Recreation Centre on Somerset Street West.The request comes following meetings the Councillor has had with community organizations and residents in the ward.
“People who experience homelessness are now lacking the simple things like using the washroom during the day,” says McKenney.
“We have 1,100 people right now in this city who are spending the night at shelter and have nowhere to go during the day anymore so it sets up a real emerging issue for these people we have to find a resolution in short term.”
That resolution could come from the Human Needs Task Force. The task force is setup as part of the city’s Emergency Management Plan and response to COVID-19. The goal of the task force is to ensure the needs of the City’s most vulnerable are looked after during the pandemic.
The task force consolidates partners from all sectors, including United Way Eastern Ontario, Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa, Ottawa Community Housing, Ottawa Food Bank, the Good Companions, Canadian Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Ottawa Inner City Health. Representatives from city departments will also join the task force, including Ottawa Public Health.
“The issue right now is finding staffing that’s available,” explains McKenney, who understands that right now, frontline and support staff are in high demand.
“But a lot of day programs have closed down in the city and people who are homeless during the day count on that. They count on the library for example and all of that is gone so it’s really about finding space for respite and simple things like being able to talk to a worker.”
The city has received money from the Ontario’s homelessness prevention funding program and McKenney’s hope is that some of that cash can be re-directed to fulfil this initiative. The Councillor’s goal is to have the recreation facility open for Ottawa’s vulnerable residents within a week.