Author Archives: Mitch Vandenborn

Ottawa Mission Food Truck Program Experiences Unprecedented Growth In Response to Rising Rates of Hunger in Ottawa due to Covid19

 Ottawa, ON – As hunger worsens in our community, The Ottawa Mission brought together its community partner Somerset West Community Health Centre and Councillor Catherine McKenney, Special Liaison for Housing and Homelessness to discuss rising food insecurity as a major consequence of the pandemic and options to address this. 

The Mission launched it Mobile Mission Meals food truck project in the summer of 2020 with 5 stops serving 500 meals per week. Just over 9 months later, it has grown to 19 stops across the City of Ottawa and serves 3,000 meals per week. The Mission also has a waiting list of partners who want to join this program to serve the needs of their respective communities for accessible, healthy food. 

In January 2020, just before the pandemic was declared, The Mission served just over 1,400 meals per day that month. Now the shelter is serving over 2,500 meals per day ― an increase of almost 80%. This also means that total number of meals served by the Mission over its last fiscal year (May 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021) was over 700,000. 

“Every single day our truck goes out across Ottawa, and hundreds of people line up to receive the meals they need to survive. People line up in walkers, in wheelchairs, and with their kids. People who never had to worry about feeding themselves and their families until Covid-19 arrived come to our truck just to survive,” said the Mission’s Director of Food Services Chef Ric Allen-Watson. 

 “When we updated the community in November about this program, we had clients tell us that they go hungry, sometimes for days, until our truck comes. In a wealthy city like Ottawa and a wealthy country like Canada, this is wrong – just plain wrong,” Allen-Watson added. 

Naini Cloutier, Executive Director of Somerset Health Community Health Centre, a community partner of the Mobile Mission Meal program, noted the relationship between the lack of affordable housing in Ottawa and the use of the Mission’s food truck program. “In our catchment area, almost 30% of residents are low-income – over twice the Ottawa average. People who are low-income often have to choose between paying their rent or feeding themselves and their children. This is especially true in our city given that rents rose 15% from 2014 – 2018, with affordable housing options increasingly scarce.” 

Cloutier also noted the disproportionate impact of food insecurity on specific populations. “Our catchment area also has a higher proportion of Indigenous peoples, immigrants and newcomers, refugees, and Black and racialized residents than the Ottawa average. These factors are also very important since all of these populations have higher rates of food insecurity.” 

Councillor McKenney pointed out how Covid-19 has impacted existing very serious issues within the community. “Before Covid-19 arrived in early 2020, our entire community was dealing with not one but 2 emergencies: the homelessness emergency and the opioid use emergency. The pandemic has magnified each of these through its devastating impacts on financial health, mental health, and increased risk of homelessness and hunger.” 

However, McKenney also noted that the pandemic has shown that large-scale system changes can be enacted quickly to meet millions of people’s needs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and why this should be made permanent. “One of the reasons people fall into homelessness, hunger and despair is because they’re poor. In April of this year, the Parliamentary Budget Officer delivered a report that suggested that a universal basic income project could reduce poverty levels in Canada by almost half in just one year. Combined with enhanced government support at all levels for affordable housing and mental health, it would reduce homelessness, hunger, and mental distress.” 

Peter Tilley, CEO of the Ottawa Mission, noted the continuing impact of Covid-19 across our community and how it will affect the shelter’s program delivery. “Given the overwhelming impact on our collective mental health, finances, food insecurity and risk of homelessness, we anticipate remaining the first place of refuge for increasing numbers of very vulnerable people going forward for several years after COVID has passed.” 

Tilley concluded the press conference by noting that the Mission will continue to meet these needs while also advocating for large-scale system change. “We’re very fortunate that we can continue to raise funds to further expand this program and work with our community partners across the city of Ottawa to reach even more people in need. We’ll also continue to work together with our partners on city council, Queen’s Park, and Parliament Hill to enhance and make permanent needed government programs to help people rebuild their lives.” 

About The Ottawa Mission 

Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving the homeless, the hungry and the lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2019-2020, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 197 men every night and served an average of 1,422 meals every day. The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of a new housing department. 

FOR INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Aileen Leo
Director of Communications
T 613.234.1144 x 305
C: 613.712.3092
E-mail: aleo@ottawamission.com

Statement on remains of 215 Indigenous children found at former residential school in BC

The Ottawa Mission shares in the mourning of the 215 Indigenous children discovered in an unmarked mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Our thoughts are with the families, the communities, residential school survivors and all others who mourn this enormous collective loss for our country.

We also join calls from those in the Indigenous community and others for the federal government and partners in residential schools to acknowledge and address the pain and injustice imposed upon First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Further, we urge these parties move quickly to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to examine all current policies and actions today that result in continuing trauma.

As an organization that works closely with Indigenous clients and partners, we have seen the effects of intergenerational trauma and abuse that so many have suffered, including a significant and disproportionate burden of homelessness. We will continue to reflect on and learn how to best we can meet our responsibilities in supporting our clients who are First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

To learn more about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous peoples, we invite you to please explore the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada reports and calls to action.

Hobin Architecture helps build communities in more than one way

A city is more than just a collection of buildings and neighbourhoods.

It’s the people that make a city a community.

Focusing on people and the community has been the guiding light for local architectural design firm Hobin Architecture since its founding in 1979.

Architect Bryan Bonell, an Associate at Hobin who has been with the firm for over 30 years, has seen this principal guide the team in many of its design projects.

“We’re not just looking to make beautiful buildings, we also want to contribute to the fabric of the city and help provide services to people in need,” Bonell said.

Today, the firm continues to find new ways to contribute to building community in Ottawa, both through its design skills and its philanthropic efforts.

Earlier this year, Hobin Architecture started a fundraising campaign called You Give, We Give to encourage new donors to support four local charities, including The Ottawa Mission, The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, The Multifaith Housing Initiative, and Cornerstone Housing For Women.

For the campaign, Hobin is matching new donations to the four organizations until the end of June, up to a total of $10,000 per beneficiary.

Choosing organizations that focus on providing affordable housing was a response to what they see as a growing crisis.

“We have such a shortage of affordable housing in the city,” Bonell said. “It’s reached crisis proportions.”

Through its design work, the firm has also helped contribute to providing high-quality, affordable housing throughout the city.

The firm’s founder Barry Hobin got his start in residential housing and that evolved into community-oriented affordable projects like the redevelopment of Beaver Barracks, the Bethany Hope Centre, and The Haven.

Hobin’s connection to The Mission runs deep, with one of the firm’s partners Gordon Lorimer serving on our board for many years.

The firm has also supported The Mission with their design talents, assisting with the expansion of the Diane Morrison Hospice, as well as renovations at the former LifeHouse building adjacent to The Mission at 55 Daly Ave.

For Bonell, the satisfaction from working on projects like those at The Mission comes from seeing them used to do good work.

“I think as a firm, we feel a certain responsibility to the community as a whole,” he said. “So it’s nice seeing everything come together and then turning the building over to a group of people who are really dedicated to helping the community.”

Help contribute to Hobin’s You Give, We Give campaign

Ottawa Mission Food Services Training Program Grads celebrates their new lives

Ottawa, ON – Today 10 students of The Ottawa Mission’s celebrated Food Services Training Program (FSTP) celebrated their graduation from this initiative, joining the ranks of 200 people who have graduated since the FSTP began in 2004.

The impact of the FSTP on the program’s graduates can be profound. In the words of Mercy Abe, FSTP Valedictorian, “Getting into this program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Coming here, I felt accepted, I felt that everyone wants me.”

For men and women looking to change their lives, the FSTP provides the skills necessary to work in a commercial kitchen. FSTP applicants must demonstrate only one qualification to be accepted into the program — a strong desire to change their lives for the better. Students pay no costs and we make sure they have all the tools they need to succeed. Students graduate with not only a credential that allows them to be self-supporting, but also with newfound confidence, pride and dignity.

The FSTP is more than a cooking program according to the Director of Food Services for The Ottawa Mission Executive Chef Ric Allen-Watson. “Teaching students how to cook is just one aspect of this program. People come to us and we give them, food, clothing, anything they need, but most of all, we give them love and a sense of belonging. For so many of our students, this is not something they’ve received a lot of in their lives, and it’s the foundation of their ability to succeed.”

Eight of these new FSTP graduates already have jobs in the industry and since 2004, 90% of students have found employment after graduation in the industry. In the summer of 2021, the FSTP will be moved over to the program’s new home at the former Rideau Bakery, which will be renamed “Chef Ric’s” in honour of Allen-Watson. The new site will combine the FSTP, The Ottawa Mission’s established catering social enterprise, and a new retail component where affordable and healthy prepared foods may be purchased for take-out. The grand opening for the new Chef Ric’s will take place in September 2021.

About The Ottawa Mission

Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving the homeless, the hungry and the lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2019-2020, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 197 men every night and served an average of 1,422 meals every day.  The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of a new housing department.

FOR INFORMATION OR TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW PLEASE CONTACT:

Aileen Leo
Director of Communications
T 613.234.1144 x 305
613-712-3092
E-mail: aleo@ottawamission.com

Why I work for The Mission: NIVES

Nives has worked at The Mission for three years, the past two as Coordinator for the Hope and Day Programs. “The Hope Program is a residential treatment program focused on harm reduction, and the Day Program is a psychoeducational and support group offered to men impacted by addictions and trauma.” Nives spend most of her time providing individual counselling and group facilitation to shelter guests and community clients.

“I meet people where they’re at. I’m very grateful to be working through a harm reduction model. By offering a non-judgmental space for clients to explore the underlying reasons for their behaviours, we often see them gain confidence and skills to better their own lives. It’s amazing how people can grow when they feel accepted.”

Working with clients has given Nives much. “They’ve taught me that homelessness can happen to anyone. Some of the most intelligent, creative and resilient people I know have been impacted by homelessness. The shelter environment can at times appear gloomy, but it’s also filled with people who exhibit kindness, courage and hope.”

Why I partner with The Mission : YETTY

Yetty has worked as the Administrative Coordinator within The Mission’s Hospice for the past four years. She previously worked at the Health Clinic. Within the Hospice, she supports the nursing team while performing other duties like connecting with patients’ families, assists with burials and cremations, and helps patients with tasks such as money management. For chronic palliative patients, she connects them to supportive housing. “Since they are stable, they can have a better quality of life in the community.”

Patients come from all backgrounds. “There’s a fine line between who is homeless and who is not.” For Yetty, it’s an honour and a privilege to work with patients, many of whom have experienced trauma. For most, the Hospice is their last home, and providing care means gaining their trust. “Here we provide a supportive environment where no one dies alone.”

Yetty also notices changes in family’s perceptions. “Some are uncomfortable that we’re in a shelter due to the stigma concerning homelessness. When they see how we treat patients, that judgement fades away. We change people’s minds through compassion.”