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City of Ottawa to spend $11.4M to support homeless population during coronavirus pandemic

Wendy Muckle, CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health, gave Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson a tour last month of a COVID-19 isolation centre for vulnerable residents in downtown Ottawa.
Wendy Muckle, CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health, gave Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson a tour last month of a COVID-19 isolation centre for vulnerable residents in downtown Ottawa. David Kawai / Canadian Press

The City of Ottawa will spend $11.4 million to bolster the capital’s shelter system and agencies supporting the city’s homeless population through the coronavirus pandemic.

Major Jim Watson said Monday the city has received $6.6 million in funding for homelessness support initiatives from the province as well as $4.8 million from the federal government.

This majority of the funding — $8.4 million — will be put towards boosting Ottawa’s existing shelter system, which now includes isolation centres in addition to the city’s pre-existing shelters.

Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds, who chairs the city’s community and protective services committee, said in a media call Monday that there have been three positive tests for the novel coronavirus so far in the city’s shelter system.

READ MORE: 857 coronavirus cases in Ottawa, 25 deaths

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Agencies that provide support to individuals in the community who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can apply here to access the remaining $3-million funding pool.

Applications will be open until the end of the day on April 27, with funding expected to flow in the first week of May.

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The City of Ottawa expects an additional $3.3 million in funding from the Ontario government in July.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused difficulties in Ottawa’s shelter system, where more than 500 families live in temporary or transitional housing.

These facilities often have shared bathrooms and kitchens, making it difficult to follow the physical-distancing directives designed to curb the spread of the virus in Ottawa.

The City of Ottawa, which has already spent $1.75 million to boost resources for homelessness initiatives in the community, has looked elsewhere to find adequate housing for families and individuals amid the pandemic.

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Local hotels, many of which have been left empty amid a stagnant tourism sector, are repurposing their rooms as temporary accommodations for families.

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Watson said more than 70 hotel rooms have already been secured with plans to acquire more.

Some 50 hotel rooms have been set aside for youth and women in the city’s shelters.

The city also plans to open the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre next week as an overflow facility for the local men’s shelter system.

The Routhier Community Centre has been operating as an isolation centre for individuals that have tested positive for the coronavirus, have mild symptoms or were in contact with anybody with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

While the number of individuals using the isolation and treatment centre varies, Sudds said it currently houses 11 people.

A second isolation centre, Patro d’Ottawa in Lowertown, is set to open next week.

The city is also using a 21-bed University of Ottawa residence to house families that have tested positive or shown symptoms of COVID-19.

The city plans to temporarily reopen the McNabb Recreation Centre this week to give an option for showers and other sanitary services to the city’s homeless population.