Community and Social Services staff continues to ensure the provision of essential services to our residents and clients. Staff is also taking an active role in assessing the emerging needs of our community during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This memo provides an update on the work underway by Community and Social Services Department and will specifically highlight the collaborative efforts undertaken with our community and City partners to ensure that our most vulnerable residents are well supported.
Addressing Community Needs
As the lead for the Human Needs Task Force, the Community and Social Services Department is taking a coordinated approach, bringing together City staff and community partners to respond together to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This taskforce is being led by Clara Freire.
The task force is currently focused on service coordination for immediate, medium and long-term response associated with five emerging needs:
- Outreach to isolated seniors
- Food security
- Volunteer coordination
- Housing and homeless needs
The task force is receiving, assessing and triaging all social and human needs inquiries, while mobilizing and supporting community organizations to address urgent community needs. The Human Needs Task Force aligns internal city resources, external partners, existing funding and new funding to community need.
Immediate Priority Focus Areas and Actions
Outreach to Isolated Seniors
The Good Companions’ Seniors Centre Without Walls has expanded its services with a focus on outreach to vulnerable and isolated seniors and other populations. Emotional and practical support is provided via telephone. In addition, they have trained 20 agencies (32 staff) to do similar outreach calls through various programs.
Rural Ottawa Support Services is working with Good Companions to provide similar telephone outreach and practical supports to isolated seniors through their A Friendly Voice program, which does wellness calls connecting seniors to local services and programs.
Ottawa Community Housing has facilitated wellness check phone calls to approximately 2,700 residents, focusing on people identified on the Fire Evacuation List.
Ottawa Food Bank is supporting the emergency food centres and are coordinating with other task force members to sort and deliver food where needed. Demand has increased by 30 per cent across community food banks. They are working with the Salvation Army to support distribution of food hampers offered by local restauranteurs. The City is providing facility space for safe storage of food hampers.
Meals on Wheels has been increasing offers of frozen food for seniors in the Ottawa area and connecting with Ottawa Food Bank to provide hamper supplies and deliveries. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they are delivering 100 fresh and 700 frozen meals daily. These services have ensured a supply of full dinners for those individuals in need.
Working with other non-profit organizations, the Good Companions and Champlain Community Support Network are coordinating urgent transportation to medical appointments, assessment centres, and food centres/grocery stores for those with financial constraints, transportation difficulties, and/or health and mobility issues.
Services can be accessed by contacting Good Companions website or by telephone at 613-236-0428.
The City and United Way of Eastern Ontario are developing a plan to support volunteer coordination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteer Ottawa has established a pool of pre-screened volunteers and will continue to accept new applicants.
Housing and Homelessness
The City has received confirmation of $1.65 million in new funding under the federal government’s Reaching Home strategy to support the homeless and vulnerably housed sector. This funding must be allocated to, but does not need to be fully expended by, agencies, by March 31, 2020.
With the coordination efforts of the Human Needs Task Force and the outreach efforts of Housing Services with the housing and homelessness sector, the City is well-positioned to respond quickly to address the identified emerging homelessness needs and to meet the allocation timeline. This funding will assist the sector in addressing needs such as staffing, food, cleaning supplies, protective equipment and transportation costs.
New funding is anticipated from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
The funding is intended to support vulnerable populations, including the homeless, low-income individuals and others who use social services, by providing funding that can be used by service managers to address local needs. More information will follow as soon as it becomes available.
Housing Supports for Vulnerable Residents
The Isolation Centre at the Routier Community Centre opened on Monday, March 23, 2020 to provide space for homeless single men and single women who need to self-isolate. The current capacity is 10 beds, with the ability to expand to 40 beds should the need arise. Supports for residents within the centre are being provided by Ottawa Inner City Health and Ottawa Public Health. Currently five residents have been referred to and are staying at the Centre.
Housing Services has secured a 29-room location to provide isolation space for families and youth, which is anticipated to open the week of April 1st .
Housing Services has also identified additional hotel rooms for families currently in the shelter and motel system to promote social distancing, and to increase access to cooking facilities.
Work is also underway with community partners to establish mechanisms to increase food security for families living in hotels/ motels that do not have adequate cooking facilities.
Rooming House Services is conducting visits to each licensed rooming house address, delivering resources from Ottawa Public Health on COVID-19. They are also working with the Parkdale Food Market to deliver 100 frozen meals and bread to rooming house tenants. Staff will continue to coordinate with restaurants and rooming house owners to address food insecurity.
Medium and Longer-Term Strategies
The Human Needs Task Force is also planning for long term needs:
- Donations strategy, working with the Office of Emergency Management, the City and United Way are coordinating the systemic response and distributions of donations from the community;
- Wellness check strategy with Red Cross, Good Companions, Ottawa Community Housing, Ottawa Public Health and other organizations.
- Caregiver and mental health supports strategy.
- City of Ottawa United Way and Community Foundation of Ottawa are aligning emergency funding envelopes to coordinate funding to non-profit organizations, where it is needed most.
Emergency Financial Assistance – New Provincial Funding Announcement
The provincial government is providing $200 million in Ontario for social services to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people, through assistance to individuals and to frontline agencies.
The province is expanding access to temporary emergency assistance under Ontario Works for those in financial crisis who have no access to other supports, including those who are waiting for support from the federal government (Employment Insurance) to become available. This funding will help to cover needs such as food, rent, medicine, transportation and other essential services.
The government is also providing resources to enable frontline Ontario Works staff to provide additional discretionary benefits to those currently in receipt of social assistance, by removing the cap on these benefits for March and April 2020. Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients are also eligible to receive these benefits.
To apply for social assistance programs:
- Residents in need of emergency financial assistance (i.e. medical needs, trouble paying utility bills, housing arrears, etc.) can call 3-1-1 and press 4 for social services
- Our four Employment and Social Services centres are serving clients from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm by phone and email. The centres offer reduced office drop-in hours of 10:00 am to 3:00 pm for exceptional crisis situations only.
- All Ontario Works and ODSP cheques are being issued as usual at the end of the month. Ontario Works clients may call or email their caseworkers, as needed.
- All Rent Geared to Income and Rent Supplement programs are suspending all documentation requirements and annual updates. These financial supports will continue as usual.
Emergency Child Care
On March 23, 2020, The Ministry of Education, who is responsible for licensed child care in the Province in partnership with Children’s Services, announced that they will work to support the provision of licensed child care in specific locations for health care and other frontline workers, free of charge to parents.
Children’s Services is developing a local plan to support the opening and oversight of the emergency licensed child care. The local plan will identify locations for the Ministry to review for exemption. The initial plan is due to the Province on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
Children’s Services is working with existing partners to assess the level of interest and capacity to provide emergency child care in Ottawa. In developing the local plan, Children’s Services will consider many factors (i.e. proximity to hospitals, Human Needs Task Force information, Ottawa Public Health’s capacity to support, etc.) to meet local needs and to identify licensed locations that require a Ministry approval/ exemption.
Children’s Services is also working with Ottawa Public Health to determine guidelines and recommendation for emergency care locations. Next steps will include developing a child care registry to ensure families can apply for emergency care and developing a prioritization criteria. In the interim, families are asked to email any questions to email@example.com.