Ottawa, ON – Earlier this month, The Ottawa Mission and its partners in the Diane Morrison Hospice unveiled its new Memorial Wall. The Wall, which measures 24 feet wide by 8.5 feet high, tells the story of how the Hospice came into being, and stories of those who have received care, those who have provided it, and the profound connections between them. The Wall also contains all the names of all 413 people who have passed away in the Hospice since 2001. After the Wall was recently installed, current Hospice clients as well as friends and family members stopped and touched these plaques, remembering their loved ones.
People who are homeless have a far greater risk of premature death than those who are not. “Since 2001, we have been a leader in palliative care for homeless people,” stated Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley. Until 2018, the Diane Morrison Hospice was the only Hospice affiliated with a homeless shelter in North America.
“Diane Morrison’s vision for end-of-life care was based on compassion, dignity and community, a vision shared by our partners in the Hospice Ottawa Inner City Health (OICH), Carefor, and other service providers,” Tilley added. “In the words of Jack, one of our first clients: ‘The Ottawa Mission Hospice is the nicest place I have ever lived. No one in my entire life has ever cared for me this much.’ This is what our Hospice is all about.”
Manager of the Hospice Yetunde Owolabi noted the complexity of providing care to homeless clients and the importance of trust between those who receive care and those who provide it. “Our Hospice offers medical, psychosocial and spiritual support tailored to each person’s needs, including a specialized understanding of complex mental health needs and addictions. Our clients have had great challenges in their lives and find it hard to trust others, and we offer unconditional acceptance The Hospice team offers them a safe and welcoming place during the most difficult time of their lives. For most, the Hospice is their last home, and providing care means gaining their trust. We provide a supportive environment where no one dies alone.”
Rob Boyd, CEO of OICH, spoke of providing care to homeless people where they’re at within the shelter system. “Our very first program was the Diane Morrison Hospice operated with the Ottawa Mission. All OICH programs are operated in partnership with shelters, housing providers, hospitals, and community health providers. OICH has 9 special shelter-based healthcare services, 5 supportive housing services and outreach programs to help people with their health concerns. We are proud to provide care to vulnerable people who often face stigma. We are also proud to provide this care through emergency shelter system, which is sometimes seen as providing only food, clothing and shelter without longer-term wraparound supports.”
Boyd also noted the importance of expanded the Hospice model of care and providing stable and predictable funding. “Hundreds of vulnerable and homeless people in Ottawa need the kind of care that the Diane Morrison Hospice provides. Our clients find it very difficult to access care appropriate to their needs. We also need more dedicated spaces such as the Hospice to reach these patients.”
The Hospice has received over $100,000 in private funds raised by the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem since its inception in 2001. It has also received support through an annual grant from the government of Ontario. However, this support is not guaranteed. “We need stable and predictable public funding to ensure that we can continue to meet the needs of our clients,” Boyd concluded.
About The Ottawa Mission
Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving those who are homeless, hungry and lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2021-2022, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 118 men every night and served an average of 2,570 meals every day. The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, primary care, 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.
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