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November 26th - Human Needs Task Force Update

The Human Needs Task Force (HNTF) continues to assess local needs during the COVID-19 emergency and enhance the City’s response, in collaboration with community partners, to support the most at-risk people in Ottawa. The task force and the Community and Social Services Department (CSSD) are working with other City departments and community partners on its resurgence and cold weather response planning to ensure the needs are met for people most at risk. Ongoing initiatives are detailed below and further plans for a medium- to long-term approach are being developed.

The purpose of this memo is to share how the HNTF and CSSD have supported the community over the last four weeks.

For more information visit:

Outreach and Social Services

Wellness Visits

Red Cross will partner with Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and other community stakeholders to assist with wellness visits for isolated and at-risk populations within several communities around the city of Ottawa. The wellness visits are expected to start within the first two weeks of December. At present the HNTF has identified the following OCH communities (approximately 1,116 residences) for the visits:

• Overbrook

• Mooretown

• St. Peter’s Court

• Arlington

• Nepean Place

Neighbourhood Ambassador Program

In collaboration with Crime Prevention Ottawa and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, the Integrated Neighbourhood Service Team (INST) created the Neighbourhood Ambassador Program (NAP) in August, which currently employs 14 youth. The NAP has connected with more than 2,400 people in the Vanier, Overbrook, Herongate, Bayshore, Britannia Woods, Foster Farm, Michelle Heights, Winthrop Crescent, Pinecrest Terrace and Morrison Gardens neighbourhoods since its inception. The program focuses on identifying needs in the areas of mental well-being, youth leadership and employment, as well as educating youth on being COVID-Wise. An evaluation is currently underway to measure the effectiveness of the program.

Mask Donations

The HNTF continues to coordinate and distribute disposable and cloth mask donations within the City. To date:

• Cloth Masks: 66,981 – of which 45,742 came through the United Way Facing Forward Campaign

• Disposable Masks: 346,080 – of which 250,000 were distributed through the OC Transpo campaign

Toy Mountain Donations

The HNTF is pleased to announce five locations across the City to support Toy Mountain’s toy drop off donation service. Circumstances related to COVID-19 left Toy Mountain with limited options for donation drop off locations. The HNTF stepped in to support by creating a new partnership with Toy Mountain.

Homelessness and Sheltering

Housing Services, Ottawa Inner City Health, local hospitals, shelter providers, housing support services and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) are working together to ensure suspected COVID-19 cases within the shelter system are quickly assessed, isolated and supported. The City has opened various physical distancing/isolation spaces since the beginning of this pandemic.

New Physical Distancing Centre for Women

In December, three programs serving single women experiencing homelessness will be temporarily consolidated into one site at 240 Friel Street, with an initial capacity of more than 100 people. The site will be operated by Cornerstone Housing for Women and serve clients from Cornerstone, Shepherds of Good Hope, and overflow services.

This approach will meet the need for physical distancing and the potential increased demand in the single women's shelter system, as well as provide an environment that is more conducive to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 among clients and staff.

This approach will also support the COVID-19 response across the broader emergency shelter system. The spaces vacated by single women being served at Shepherds of Good Hope will support physical distancing within the single men’s shelter system.

The movement of operations and clients will be phased and take place starting in December. An FAQ has been prepared and circulated to support discussions with staff, clients and community partners.

Respite Centres

The Tom Brown and Bernard Grandmaître Arenas opened as respite centres earlier this month. The centres offers numerous services to the most at-risk community members. In addition to offering access to showers and washrooms, clients will have a place to rest during the day. The centres will also provide essentials like toiletries, food, clothing, crisis intervention, and referrals and links to other primary care services. The St. Paul’s Eastern United Church has been secured as a third respite centre location to support the Sandy Hill area. The centre is expected to open in December.

Housing Blitz

The Housing Blitz, which is a partnership between the Alliance to End Homelessness-Ottawa (ATEHO), the City of Ottawa and other community partners, ended on October 31. In total, 42 landlords submitted units through, which generated a total of 104 units. However, many of the units submitted were not suitable for the program due to their level of affordability. To date, 28 households have been housed through the program, and the City of Ottawa and ATEHO continue to encourage landlords to submit their units for consideration.

Request for Offers for Pandemic-Related Renovations up to $50,000

Via HNTF discussions and the previously completed service resumption survey, community agencies have identified opportunities to support the safe delivery and increased level of in person services through modifications to their physical environments. The City has created a funding program and allocation process to address this need.

Funded by Provincial Social Service Relief Fund-Phase 2 and Federal Reaching Home funding, the City issued a funding allocation process for pandemic-related renovations which closed on November 20. Social service providers whose settings are at the highest risk for the spread of COVID-19, to both staff and at-risk clients, are eligible for up to $50,000 per agency. Funding can be used for building renovations and/or repairs such as room dividers, or the purchase and installation of equipment such as ventilation that would reduce the spread of COVID-19 and/or increase the local capacity to serve at-risk clients in compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols. Priority will be given to programs that deliver services in congregate settings including shelters, supportive housing, homelessness day programs and Residential Services Homes. Allocation decisions and announcements will be made in December.

Per Unit COVID-19 Funding Allocation for Social Housing Providers

Funded by Provincial Social Service Relief Fund-Phase 2, the City is allocating $1.8 million to social housing providers for COVID-19 costs associated with cleaning, personal protective equipment, minor retrofits in common areas to support distancing and to reduce the spread of the virus (i.e. plexiglass installations). Funding is allocated based on the number of social housing units each provider has at $100/unit. Staff are finalizing contribution agreements and anticipate releasing the funding in two stages – stage 1 in December 2020 and stage 2 in January/February 2021.

Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit

The Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) is a housing allowance implemented in April 2020. Indigenous women, women who are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, single women and lone female-led households residing within the emergency shelters, and those with the highest priority on the centralized waitlist are eligible for the COHB.

To date, 312 households have been approved to receive the benefit, of which 88 were from the emergency shelter system. It is anticipated that up to 375 households will be approved and receive the COHB, with an average benefit of $625/month.

Rapid Housing Initiative

Under the Federal Rapid Housing Initiative, Major Cities Stream, the City of Ottawa was allocated $31.9 million to develop up to 83 new deeply affordable housing units. Staff continue to prepare the required investment plan outlining projects to be proposed both under the Major Cities Stream and the Project Stream, to be submitted to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation by November 27, 2020. A motion is being brought forward to Council on November 25 seeking delegated authority to move forward with the application and implementation process. More details were provided in a memo to Council sent on November 24.

Portable Toilets and Washroom Access

The HNTF continues to offer portable toilets strategically situated at high-need locations across the city, as well as access to washrooms at the various respite centres. Further discussion is taking place with the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) and members of the HNTF to consider next steps in planning for winter access to more washrooms.

Child Care and EarlyON Child and Family Centres

Distribution of Safe Restart Funding (SRF)

On November 13, Children’s Services was pleased to be able to distribute $13.4 million dollars in federal SRF to local child care and early years providers. These funds will be used for additional personal protective equipment (such as gloves, gowns, etc.), enhanced cleaning measures, additional staff to meet health and safety requirements, and support child care providers with short term vacancies.

New Supporting Child Care During COVID-19 web pages

Children’s Services has been collaborating with OPH since early October to create new Supporting Child Care During COVID-19 web pages on OPH’s website. This section of the website includes the latest information on operational guidance, frequently asked questions, COVID-19 screening tools specific for schools and child care, and other important resources for providers and families in one centralized location.

New Child Care and Early Years Guidance received from Province

In November, Children’s Services received updated operational guidance for child care centres on reopening before and after school programs and EarlyON Child and Family Centres. Children’s Services shared the new reopening guidance with local partners and continues to work closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to review the newly released provincial information and assess its impacts.

Proposed Regulatory Amendments under the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014

Children’s Services has provided a response to the Province’s proposed regulatory changes to the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014. Input was received from the sector highlighting priorities and recommendations for the Province’s consideration. The City’s response was sent to the Province on November 20 and Children’s Services looks forward to receiving further feedback.

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©2019 by Jan Harder.