The Meaning of Home This Summer

For over one year, we’ve been encouraged to stay at home to stop COVID-19. Of course, this can’t happen if you don’t have a home.

As the pandemic wears on, we find hope from the rollout of vaccines. In fact, some vaccines are being administered right here at our shelter. But we also remain vigilant regarding the risk of infection while delivering essential services, which are needed now more than ever before.

Ottawa was already in a state of homelessness emergency when the pandemic began. Given COVID-19’s overwhelming impact on our mental health, addictions, finances, employment, and housing and food insecurity, we anticipate our shelter will continue to be the first place of refuge for increasing numbers of vulnerable people for years after COVID-19 has passed.

While warming weather is welcome, the continuing need is overwhelming and growing.

For example, last summer we launched our Food Truck Program to feed those who couldn’t travel to our shelter due to disability, lack of money for transportation, or other reasons. As a result, our average daily meal count has exploded from 1,422 before the pandemic to more than 2,500 — an astounding 80% increase.

As more people are forced to make impossible choices, such as buying food or paying their rent, we ask ourselves what does home mean in such uncertain times? And with more people sleeping outside in soaring temperatures, unable to access shade or water, we ask ourselves how can we provide the safety, warmth and belonging that normally comes with a home?

In this newsletter, you’ll find a heartening story about the meaning of home from Shaun, a former shelter guest who now has his own home in one of our mixed-market apartment buildings featuring supportive housing options. For Shaun, the comfort that comes from being home is something he needs and deserves.

As the CEO of The Ottawa Mission, I can assure you that your support is fundamental to our ability to ensure that our current and former clients have a place to call home.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Peter Tilley
CEO, The Ottawa Mission

A Permanent Home Makes All The Difference

Meet Shayne. He’s been with The Mission for four years. At first, he was hired as a frontline staff worker. In this role, he was the first point of contact for people coming to the shelter. In time, Shayne became a housing worker, helping shelter guests and community members find housing.

You may be surprised to learn that many shelter guests are employed, working regular 9 to 5 hours, but still can’t afford housing. This indicates how unaffordable housing has become in Ottawa. Making the situation worse, most community supports are unavailable outside typical working hours. In 2019, Shayne transitioned to a later shift to provide housing services and other supports to these clients.

"There’s a tangible difference from when I first meet clients up to when they’re housed. It’s rewarding when clients talk about the positive difference in their lives from having a permanent home."

You’ll be happy to know that further improvements have been made to the housing intake process and in how diversion is approached.

“Diversion involves repairing relationships so clients see that people want to help them. I reconnect clients with people who can offer support. Often people don’t want to bother people they’ve known by asking for help. In fact, many of these people want to help because they care about these clients,” says Shayne.

“I’m Really Grateful To Be Here”

Shaun is a friendly 45-year-old man who lived in and out of shelters. Then in 2020, he moved into our new building in Overbrook that combines subsidized apartment rentals for former Ottawa Mission clients and regular apartment rentals.

“My apartment is really nice. I’m really grateful to be here. The building is very clean and there’s a good mix of people,” says Shaun.

Your generosity was critical to purchasing this building.

Shaun’s addiction contributed to him becoming homeless, and he stayed with us several times.

“I was always around The Mission, and have great respect for the people there — Chaplain Timothy, frontline staff, people with Housing and Client Services, Chef Ric and his team — everyone. All staff go above and beyond to help people like myself,” says Shaun.

Shaun was in and out of recovery for years, but he “never really wanted to get clean.”

Thanks to donors like you, Shaun got help through our Addiction and Trauma Services Stabilization Program. After successfully finishing that program, he also received counselling and group treatment through the Second Stage After Care Program.

I’m pleased to tell you that Shaun has also returned to school. “I’m finishing up my grade 12. I have a few exams left, but I’m really close and will finish soon,” says Shaun, with noticeable excitement and pride.

“It’s too bad that there’s not more places like this. I feel very fortunate to be here,” shares Shaun.

Your gift has given Shaun a new home and a new life. Thank you so much for your generous support.

Working with Our Partners to Realize Our Clients’ Dreams

In 2019, we launched our new housing department to provide additional support that enables our clients to rebuild their lives. Our team finds homes for vulnerable men and women and helps them achieve and maintain independence after being housed.

Our commitment to providing clients with safe and affordable housing began with our not-for-profit housing arm, Holland Properties Association (HPA). In 2007, HPA purchased an apartment building that provides a combination of subsidized rentals for former Ottawa Mission clients alongside regular apartment rentals. Thanks to your generosity, we purchased another apartment building in 2019, further expanding our housing and case management support for former clients.

In 2020, we were fortunate to be the charity of choice for a campaign launched by local construction company D-Squared. Founded by CEO Dom Madonna, D-Squared launched the #SPREADTHELOVE campaign in March, a $25,000 fund for individuals, families and businesses struggling due to COVID-19.

Dom, who grew up near The Mission, walked past our shelter regularly and saw the need for our services first-hand. This observation stayed with him as he expanded his business from a single backhoe and dump truck to a $25 million company.

“When COVID-19 hit, the construction industry was deemed essential. At D-Squared, we knew that we had to give back, so we created #SPREADTHELOVE. We really wanted to help and were happy to do so,” says Dom.

In October, D-Squared launched phase two of this campaign, building a coalition of more than 135 partners that worked together to raise over $300,000. These funds will renovate a large house HPA purchased to further our ability to provide permanent homes for our former clients.

Councilor Catherine McKenney’s office provided an additional $500,000 to help purchase this home with the goal of preserving affordable housing downtown.

At The Mission, we believe everyone deserves a place to call home. We extend our deepest gratitude to D-Squared Construction, Councillor McKenney, and to you for all your support in helping our clients find permanent homes of their own.

Hope Starts With You…

A BIG thank you to everyone who has given to our Summer of Hope MATCH campaign to support those who are struggling in our community this summer.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to increase unemployment and homelessness, the need for help has been greater than ever. But your generosity is a beacon of hope that shines brightly during our darkest days.

The match runs until the end of June, which means there’s still time for you to participate and watch your gift go 2x as far for people experiencing homelessness in Ottawa.

Every gift ensures that our city’s most vulnerable have access to essential programs and services. From hot meals and emergency shelter to addiction treatment and employment training — your generosity helps people like Shaun, so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

Thank you again to everyone who’s given so far to make this a summer of hope.