Category Archives: Blog

Shaw Centre’s world-class food donations boost morale for clients

The Shaw Centre in Ottawa was recently honoured with the international APEX award for the World’s Best Convention Centre. Located downtown on the Rideau Canal, the beautiful facility hosts a wide variety of conferences and events. A world-class centre requires world-class meals, and Executive Chef Patrick Turcot does not disappoint.

Although things have looked very different during the pandemic, the Shaw Centre adapted to serve their clients while still remembering the less fortunate in our community. Every month, they donate food to our shelter — everything from egg rolls and samosas to cinnamon buns and smoked meat brisket.

“We’re happy to help those in need in our community by providing diverse and quality meals,” says Chef Patrick. “Knowing the food isn’t going to waste but is going to those who need it makes us feel good at the end of the day.”

In the past few months, the donations have been a huge help in feeding the shelter guests and community clients who turn to us for meals. We always aim to provide quality meals to our clients, and the fresh, local contributions from Chef Patrick and his team are a huge help.

Recent donations of waffles, sausages, turkey bacon were used in the daily breakfasts, and a donation of vegetarian mini burgers provided a delicious vegetarian option for a lunch entrée. Donated bread was used to make toast and sandwiches, and a large donation of salad dressing meant that we didn’t have to buy any for several weeks.

With so many more people turning to us for meals during the pandemic, the Shaw Centre’s donations make a significant difference. Currently, between our community meal program and Mobile Mission Meals food truck, we serve over 2,000 meals a day. “They have been a big help in meeting the increased demand we have had of late,” confirms Chef Percy Belford, the Manager of Kitchen Services at The Mission. “These donations have been a real morale booster for our clients. It’s great to see the smile on their faces when they see something special on the plate.”

One of the favourite recurring donations among clients are the cookies and squares, which are always a big hit for dessert. Each special treat or unexpected menu item offers our guests something to look forward to during a challenging time.

We’re so grateful at The Mission to have neighbours like the Shaw Centre just a few blocks away. They’re leaders in their industry, and their generosity is making our city a better place for everybody.

 

Vote housing at the polls

In a new Nanos poll, 78% of Canadians said they would be more supportive of a political party that proposed concrete action to end homelessness and build new affordable housing. As we prepare to vote this month, let’s review what the national parties propose around housing and homelessness.

Liberal

The Liberals are promising to build, preserve or repair 1.4 million homes over 4 years. They will push big cities to build middle-class homes, convert empty office space into housing, and introduce tax credits that support multi-generational family living. They will also scale up rent-to-own projects and offer a tax-free First Home Savings Account. In addition to this, they plan to double the First-Time Home Buyers Tax Credit and introduce other measures that could save first-time buyers up to $30,000. Their proposed buyers’ bill of rights would include a ban on “blind bidding,” which can drive up sale prices on homes. They would also crack down on housing speculation and home flipping, and they would temporarily ban new foreign ownership in Canadian housing.

Conservative

The Conservatives pledge to build 1 million homes in the next 3 years. They commit to using 15% of federal-owned buildings for housing, and they would require municipalities receiving federal transit funding to increase density near transit. They will encourage investment in rental homes by allowing owners to defer capital gains tax when selling. They will also ban foreign investors from buying homes in Canada unless they plan to live in them or move to Canada. In addition, the party plans to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and build 50 recovery community centres across the country. They will also provide $1 billion over five years for Indigenous mental health and drug treatment programs.

NDP

The NDP will create at least 500,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years, with at least half completed in the next 5 years. The party will introduce “fast-start funds” to create more co-op and non-profit social housing, use federal lands and resources for affordable housing, and waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of affordable rentals. They have also promised to double the Home Buyers Tax Credit and re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC-insured mortgages for most first-time buyers. They will also create resources to facilitate co-housing, such as model co-ownership agreements. Finally, they will place a 20% foreign buyer’s tax on the sale of homes to people who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents.

Green

The Green Party wants to declare a national housing affordability and homelessness emergency. From there, they would adopt a national moratorium on evictions and create a residential arrears assistance program to protect people from becoming homeless. They would make new investments in cooperative housing, and they would retain the current tax on foreign homeowners while adding a tax on corporate owners of unoccupied residences. They also plan to enhance the Canada Housing Benefit and to redefine “affordable housing” using a formula that better reflects today’s reality.

The Nanos poll referenced above reveals that a shocking 4.9 million Canadians are worried about making next month’s rent or mortgage payment. With so much at stake, we encourage you to look into each party’s housing and homelessness policies as you prepare to cast your vote.

Sharing the faces and stories of people experiencing homelessness through photography

There’s a story written on all of our faces.

A story of who we are. Of where we’ve been.

Through her photography, Leah Denbok seeks to capture the stories of people experiencing homelessness and offer viewers a glimpse of their struggles.

In 2015, when she was only 15 years old, she created Humanizing The Homeless, a series of portraits of people experiencing homelessness primarily from Toronto. The striking images are accompanied by stories about their lives, their passions, and their struggles.

Leah was drawn to photography from a young age. After coming upon the work of British photographer Lee Jeffries and his striking portraits of people experiencing homelessness, her father Tim suggested she look for opportunities to create her own.

Leah said that growing up in a small-town in southern Ontario insulated her from the scale of homelessness in large urban centres like Toronto

“Going into it, I was somewhat naive about their lives and had many of the negative stereotypes that people often assume,” she said. “But as you soon discover, people experiencing homelessness can be some of the kindest, most humble people you’ll ever meet.”

But her belief in the project also comes from a personal place: her mother, Sara, was once homeless.

As a child, Sara was found in the streets of Calcutta, India in the early 1970s, and was brought by a police officer to Mother Teresa’s orphanage. From there, she was adopted by a Canadian couple near Collingwood.

“I realize that if not for people having empathy for people experiencing homelessness, I wouldn’t be alive,” she said.

Humanizing the people she photographs and encouraging empathy lay at the heart of the project.

After capturing hundreds of images and stories in cities in Canada and internationally, Leah said what inspires her to keep the project going is knowing that the work is helping change perspectives.

“I think if anyone actually took the time to listen to what people have had to go through and experience just to survive, they’d be shocked,” she said.

“I receive from people who’ve seen the photos saying they’re not just going to walk by anymore, and that they’ll stop just pretending that they aren’t there.”

After several years, Leah collected her works into three volumes of photography books, with all proceeds going to support local emergency shelters. The fourth book in the series will be released later this fall.

To learn more about Leah and her project, visit https://www.humanizingthehomeless.org/

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

The Mission’s Volunteer Family

There isn’t a single type of volunteer at The Ottawa Mission.

All of them have a story of how they arrived here, and different reasons that keep them coming back.

They have different ages, backgrounds and beliefs, but all of them come into the building with the same goal: they want to do some good for people.

From serving meals, to doing laundry, to supporting transformative programs for clients, the work that is done on Waller Street is only possible through the passion and generosity of our volunteers.

“They’re the cavalry coming over the hill,” said Jake Harding, The Mission’s Coordinator of Volunteer and Community Engagement Services.

“From a strictly operational point-of-view, without volunteers to help us, we could not do what we do,” he said.

That’s been especially true during COVID-19.

The impacts of the pandemic have been felt everywhere at The Mission, most notably in the huge growth in food insecurity across Ottawa and the need for food programs like the Mobile Mission Meals food truck.

Finding the helping hands to meet that growing need, in the middle of the pandemic, was the challenge that fell on the volunteer office.

Before COVID-19, the average volunteer would come in 9 hours per month, but now, that number is up to 14 hours per month.

But with many volunteers who are elderly or immune-compromised needing to stay home for safety, experienced volunteers and new ones alike have stepped up to take on more shifts to help meet the growing need for food in our community.

For some volunteers, having to staying away has been hard.

Normand Bradley started volunteering with The Mission 4 years ago, and over 2,000 hours of volunteering later, keeps coming back every week.

But last year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Norman wasn’t able to leave the building he lives in for nine weeks, which prevented him from volunteering.

“It was terrible,” he said. “You become so close to the staff and other volunteers, it’s as hard as not seeing your family.”

However, the day he was allowed to leave again, he remembers the feeling of picking up the phone to call Jake and schedule a shift.

“It felt like I had won the lottery,” he said.

“If not now, then when?”

Svjetlana Gavric walked by The Mission every day on her way to work, seeing the growing demand for its services firsthand. She started volunteering on her own several years ago, and found herself quickly drawn into the community of care developed by the staff and volunteers.

“You meet so many different people that have crossed so many different paths,” she said. “And you learn something from each of them.”

With many volunteers having to stay away due to the pandemic, it’s been hard on the community.

“I’ve made real friendships here, the kind where you call to check in on one another,” she said. “Speaking with them, you can tell it causes them hurt that they aren’t able to come in.”

For Svjetlana, that’s one of the reasons it was still important for her to continue to serve, despite the risk.

“If not now, then when?” she said. “As long as there are people in need, we’ll be there. We have to come together as a community, now more than ever.”

“Help is like a two-way street here.”

Beyond the friendships that are built, for many volunteers, helping serve people experiencing poverty in our community has changed their perspectives on homelessness.

Cezar Iliescu is a law student at the University of Ottawa, just a few blocks away from The Mission.

“On campus, I feel many students know there’s a shelter over there, but not the exact details of what happens here,” he said.

It was while taking a social justice course that Cezar came to start volunteering at The Mission, and discovered the breadth of services offered here.

Eventually Cezar got other students involved through a student group he founded, including running a fundraiser and volunteering as a group.

“Before I introduced them, they all had their own biases and preconceptions about why people are homeless,” he said. “By volunteering here, they really learned how poverty affects people, and how homelessness can happen to anyone.”

Those fellow students he introduced have continued to volunteer on their own now, something Cezar attributes to the volunteer community and culture of The Mission.

“Help is like a two-way street here,” he says. “I’ve always been told here, if I ever run into food problems, or anything like that, we’re all here to help you.”

Working with others

As COVID-19 continues to present new challenges, the work continues in the volunteer office to help meet the need.

For Jake, he says the mental health challenge COVID-19 has presented to them has been twofold.

“For staff on the frontlines, it’s been isolating to not have the regular community of volunteers with us,” he said. “And for the volunteers not able to come in, they find it difficult to be away.”

“The community aspect is what we’re all missing,” he said.

But even through the trials of the pandemic, that community isn’t gone.

It’s kept alive through those that continue to serve, and by those looking forward to returning one day soon.

Power of Attorney. What Is It?

When people seek help with their estate planning, they usually understand the need for an up-to-date will. Some, however, are less clear on the need to have a Power of Attorney. Having such documents is important and wise. Here’s why.

A Power of Attorney is a legal, written document that allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf. Essentially, it gives them the same powers you have to deal with your assets and your personal care. A Power of Attorney is only valid after it is signed and only for as long as you live.

There are two kinds of Power of Attorney:

  • Power of Attorney for Property covers your financial affairs and allows the person you name to act for you. A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a type of Power of Attorney for Property that allows the person you name to act even after you become mentally incapable.
  • Power of Attorney for Personal Care covers your personal care decisions, such as housing, nutrition, clothing, and health care, should you be unable to act on your own.

If you don’t have a Power of Attorney, a family member can make health care treatment decisions for you and can apply to the Court become your guardian of the person and of property. Alternatively, someone else, like a close friend, could apply to act for you. With a Power of Attorney, you get to choose whom you would like to act on your behalf.

Powers of Attorney are powerful documents and should be given to individuals only after carefully considering that they are trustworthy and able to do what is required. It is wise to ensure the people who need to know about these documents are aware of them and where they are located. They should also be kept in a secure place.

Powers of Attorney are practical documents that can make your life, and the lives of your family members, much easier. When you create or update your will, remember your Powers of Attorney, too.

Tax benefits for you and your estate

Every legacy gift through one’s will to The Ottawa Mission Foundation provides your estate with a tax receipt for the full amount of the gift. In the year of your death, you are deemed to have disposed of all of your assets. Because of this, your reportable income can be high. The charitable tax credit flowing from your gift can offset any tax owing from capital gains or the winding up of retirement funds. Your executor should consult an accountant about how to make use of the tax credit in the most beneficial way.

Susanne Greisbach is a Senior Advisor in Trust and Advisory Services with the National Bank and a specialist in Wills, Trusts, and Estate Law. Susanne is a member of The Ottawa Mission Foundation’s Allied Professionals Network. This group of volunteers from various professions – law, accounting, financial planning – bring their professional knowledge and technical expertise to The Foundation’s legacy giving program. To learn more about Susanne and our other allied professionals, please visit our Legacy Giving page

How You Can Help Shape Our Future

A charitable gift in your will is important. Each year, thousands of philanthropic Canadians leave a portion of their assets in their wills to support causes they care about. Such gifts help people fulfil their charitable dreams and wishes. They can also generate significant tax benefits for one’s estate. For The Ottawa Mission Foundation, charitable gifts from generous donors like you ensure that those experiencing homelessness will continue to have a warm place to sleep, nutritious meals, housing support, medical, dental and addiction treatment programs, and so much more. That’s why we are asking you to remember The Mission with your own legacy gift.

You may direct your future gift to any area of The Mission’s work that you like, including our many supportive programs, our endowment funds or for our day-to-day operations. Alternatively, you may allow us to direct your gift to where the need and impact are greatest at the time. Whatever you choose, a planned gift can ensure a strong future for The Mission. Opportunities abound and there is one that is just right for you.

A charitable gift of any amount in your will could be a truly powerful gift that may not be financially possible during your lifetime. After providing for your loved ones, a gift in your will would make a tangible, meaningful difference to what we strive to do daily at The Mission.

If you are considering leaving a legacy for The Mission, speak with your professional advisors. Then, please contact Christina Hunter Cadieux, Planned Giving Officer, by email at chuntercadieux@ottawamission.com or calling her at 613.277.4902. If you have already remembered The Mission in your estate plans, please let us know. We can partner with you to establish or confirm how you would like your future gift to be used, thank you personally, and offer you recognition if you wish.

Please help us build a lasting future. Thank you for remembering The Mission with a legacy gift.

Without A Will…

There are many reasons why we put off making a will. The process can be daunting. There is uncertainty about where to begin. Some think their estate is too small to bother. However, if we really understood the consequences of not having a will, especially for those we care about, we would be taking action—immediately.

Here are just some of the reasons why having a will is so important:

  • When you don’t have a will, the chances of having to apply to court for probate are much higher. When you have a will, combined with some good estate planning, you can often avoid this costly and time consuming process.
  • Without a will, the laws of the province in which you reside will determine how your assets are distributed on your passing. Your preferences may not be followed and could result in real hardship for your loved ones.
  • If you are parents of minor children, you lose your only opportunity to name a legal guardian of your choice—someone who could best meet the emotional and material needs of your children.
  • Finally, if minors are beneficiaries, they will inherit from your estate at the age of 18 with no strings attached. Some can handle such responsibility at this young age, while others cannot.

Having an up-to-date will is important. Think about the legacy that you would like to leave, and then seek professional advice and counsel. You—and your heirs— will be glad you did.

Without a Will is based on an article written by Peter Lillico, an estate planning lawyer with the Peterborough, Ontario firm of Lillico Bazuk Galloway Halka.

Lucian and Rita Blair: Seeing The Need

Lucian and Rita Blair have donated to The Ottawa Mission Foundation for 18 years — even though they both wish The Mission wasn’t needed. Unfortunately, it is.

It was Lucian’s work in local television that first brought The Mission and its work to his attention. He had no idea the difficulties the homeless faced, or their special needs, until he produced a news program on homelessness. Rita’s work as a social worker at the Ottawa Civic Hospital brought The Mission’s work to light as well. They discovered the impressive, comprehensive strategies it uses with the homeless and, as Lucian shares, “We were happy to offer our financial support.” They do so in memory of their son Paul, who died in 2011.

The Blairs were born in northeastern Italy in an area that is now part of Slovenia. Their parents met in an internment camp, decided that their future lay in Canada, and immigrated in 1951. Rita’s family moved to Montreal, while Lucian’s family relocated to Toronto. Lucian and Rita connected again during Expo 67, began a friendship, and have now been married for close to 50 years.

The couple is clearly aware of what a good life they have in comparison to others. As Lucian shares, “Our gifts support The Mission’s meal and rehabilitation programs and that pleases us.”

They became monthly donors and more recently each has chosen to remember The Mission with another kind of gift — a legacy in their will. It was something they just knew they wanted to do. “We have no grandchildren”, says Rita, “and we have absolute confidence The Mission will use our gifts creatively and well.” Their future gifts are a percentage of their estates and have been left undesignated to be used where the need is greatest at the time.

Today, the Blairs are happily retired. Lucian spends time with his piano, making playlists for his friends, reading, and home maintenance. Rita is an avid bird watcher and enjoys gardening. They keep abreast of The Mission’s activities and are happy to encourage their neighbours and friends to support the Mission as well. The Mission could not be more grateful for all their years of thoughtful help.

When asked what he would say to someone who is considering leaving a legacy gift to The Mission, Lucian is clear. “Just do it! The Mission does wonderful work that meets urgent needs. It is an organization most worthy of our help.”

You too can support The Mission with a gift of any amount in your estate plans. Staff would be pleased to assist you in any way they can. And if you have already remembered The Mission with a legacy, would you let us know? We would like to thank you personally and ensure we use your future gift exactly as you wish.

On behalf of those we serve thank you, Lucian and Rita, for your generous support of The Mission in so many ways for so many years.

Working with our partners to meet the need for healthy food and a brighter future

As the pandemic has impacted our community, The Ottawa Mission has partnered with community food cupboards across our city to meet the need for healthy food in response to worsening food insecurity. Our food truck project was launched at the beginning of September 2020 and the need for its services has grown since that time. We started the program to bring meals to people where they live to serve even more people in need.
The program began with five stops delivering about 100 meals at each stop. The food truck now has 18 locations rotating throughout Ottawa each week and delivers over 2,800 meals per week.

Last year, The Ottawa Mission served over 1,400 meals every day and a total of over 520,000 meals. The addition of the food truck has pushed this daily average number of meals served to more than 2,000, and will push our yearly total meal count to well over 600,000.

We’re incredibly grateful to our partners, donors and sponsors for their generous support. We couldn’t do this without your help.

Our supporters have also been instrumental in expanding our very successful Food Services Training Program. Since 2004, the FSTP has trained 179 students to work in this industry and has a success rate of 90% in terms of students securing positions.

The program has expanded to include more training opportunities such as catering and job placements. Over time, the FSTP has outgrown kitchen and our ability to keep up with the number of people that want to take part in the program. As a result, we’ve had to turn potential trainees away because we don’t have the resources or space to train them.

To address these issues and help even more people in need, we’re moving forward to increase the annual number of students trained at our new non-profit, offsite FSTP education centre located within the former Rideau Bakery site. We’ll increase the number of sessions per year from two to three to train more students per year. We will also add a store-front operation to serve healthy, nutritious meals at an affordable price for people that normally couldn’t afford it.

We’re profoundly grateful to have the generous support of many existing and new partners to realize this exciting new initiative, including the Aggarwal family, current owners of the former Rideau Bakery site, who have donated it for our use for seven years.

The Rideau Bakery provided delicious food and a sense of community and family to the people of Ottawa for almost 90 years before closing its doors in 2019. We’re very proud to be able to continue this tradition while helping those in need to rebuild their lives.

A huge thank you to our supporters for your incredible generosity in providing both healthy food and brighter future for those we serve.