Shelter crisis update, new heritage designations, downtown revitalization and more

Well, winter is undeniably here. The cold snap has been great for winter sports, including skating on the Rideau Canal (while it lasted!), but my thoughts always turn to people experiencing homelessness in this weather. City staff have been working around the clock to ensure that no one must sleep outdoors in the frigid cold. I have been supporting this work as a member of the Emergency Shelter Crisis Taskforce.

 I am happy to report some progress:

  • We added 70 beds via the use of bunkbeds at city-run centres.
  • The city is funding low-barrier respite/warming centres to run for longer hours and offer cots to rest on and snacks to eat. This includes Centre 507 (at 507 Bank Street), which is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • By the end of January, we will have met our goal of transitioning 120 neighbours into long term housing by offering rent subsidies.
  • In addition to opening more community centres as overflow shelters, we reached an agreement with the federal government to open the Graham Spry Building at 250 Lanark Avenue as another warming shelter.

This week in Centretown, the John Howard Society’s new supportive housing building will open on Lisgar Street. I am excited to welcome 29 women to the neighbourhood, many of whom have been sleeping rough or in shelters and will now have new, permanent homes with supports. We are also eagerly anticipating the opening of Cornerstone Housing’s new supportive housing residence on Eccles Street. There is nothing more secure and comforting than a forever home, with a door that locks and all the necessary amenities.

City council made a commitment to residents that this would be the last winter where we would be using community centres as emergency shelters. We doubled the city’s capital investment in affordable housing from $15 million to $30 million in 2024. Now we need our federal and provincial partners to step up and help fund the affordable, non-profit housing that we know will solve homelessness in our city.

I often say that ending homelessness is like pushing a giant boulder up a hill. But I am confident we will get there by pushing that boulder together.

Stay warm,

Ariel

P.S. – If you or someone you know needs a warm place to sleep or hang out in, call 311 for a referral at any time.

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Ariel and fellow councillors at a reception to honour the Ottawa Professional Women’s Hockey team

Road closures downtown

Look out for potential road closures this weekend, associated with the state funeral for former Ottawa Centre MP and leader of the NDP Ed Broadbent. For the most up to date information on both closures and potential traffic impacts, please see the Ottawa Police Service on X, Facebook or Instagram.

New heritage designations in Centretown

At the most recent meeting of Built Heritage Committee, council voted to designate two buildings in Ward 14 – the Bible House at 315 Lisgar St and the W.C. Edwards building at 290 City Centre Avenue (known to many of you as the former home of the Orange Gallery). These are the kinds of buildings that we’re at increasingly risk of losing, and Councillor Troster was proud to support the staff recommendation to designate these unique and special parts of Centretown’s built heritage.

If there’s a building that you think may be a good candidate for heritage designation, please reach out to our office and we can work with you to bring forward a community designation request. You can learn more about heritage designation on the city’s website.

Downtown revitalization taskforce releases report

Earlier this month, the Downtown Ottawa Revitalization Task Force released its final report, with many innovative ideas on how to encourage more people to live, work and play in Centretown. Councillor Troster was an active member of the task force and has been working on many of the initiatives outlined in the report. You can read the full report online.

New data on effectiveness of Safe Supply in Ottawa

Some neighbours have reached out with questions about Safe Supply in Ottawa, a program where people experiencing acute addiction are prescribed opiates by licensed medical professionals. This presentation provides an overview of the Safer Supply Ottawa program, as well as the results of a research project conducted in 2023.

The program is helping people stabilize their lives, prevent overdoses and move toward better health. We are grateful for all of the harm reduction workers in Centretown who are keeping our neighbours who use drugs alive and helping them access health care and community resources.

Help maintain the rink at McNabb Park

A small group of Centretown residents have been maintaining the outdoor skating rink at McNabb Park for the last few years on a volunteer basis and need more help to keep it in great shape and expand the skating season. Volunteers are needed to help flood the ice in the late evening, shovel and snow blow after snow falls, and in other creative ways. High School students can earn volunteer hours required for graduation as well!

If this is of interest, please send a message to [email protected] for more information and to get involved!

Applications are open for the 2024 Paint It Up! program

Looking for a way to help deter vandalism and beautify the community while empowering our city’s youth through public art? Paint It Up! is a youth engagement program funded by Public Works and administered by Community and Social Services at the City of Ottawa.  

Funding is available through Community Safety and Well-Being, Policy, and Analytics within CSS for local organizations wanting to hire youth to create murals in neighbourhoods experiencing a high rate of tagging and vandalism. Since 2010, Paint It Up! has involved more than 2,925 youth in 103 murals across the city. 

Those interested in participating will need to keep two deadlines in mind: 

  • You must submit your location for approval by Saturday, March 2 via the mural application form.
  • The complete application will need to be submitted by Thursday, April 4. 

For more information on the Paint It Up! Program, please visit ottawa.ca/PaintItUp

Complete your Vacant Unit Tax declaration

It’s time for Ottawa homeowners to complete their online Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) forms at ottawa.ca/vut for each residential property they own before the March 21 deadline. A $250 late fee will be applied to all declarations filed after the deadline.

In addition to online declarations, The City has set up declaration options for residents who require accessibility related supports, and for those without access to the internet or digital devices – like computers, tablets and other hand-held devices.

  • Call 613-580-2444 where an agent will help complete your declaration over the phone.
  • Call 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service.
  • The City’s Client Service Centres can provide in-person assistance for completing the declaration. Priority will be given to scheduled appointments. Visit the Client Services website for locations and appointments.

Vehicle idling: city wants to hear from you!

The City of Ottawa is conducting a review of its vehicle Idling Control By-law. This by-law was enacted in 2007 to reduce unnecessary vehicle idling by all drivers in Ottawa with the aim of improving local air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Idling is running a vehicle’s engine when the vehicle is not in motion and when the engine is not operating equipment essential to the basic function of the vehicle. It commonly takes place outside of businesses or residences when waiting to pick someone or something up, when preparing to leave the house or office, or when otherwise being stationary with the engine running.

City Council has now directed staff to undertake a review of this by-law, and we want to hear from you.

Visit the Engage Ottawa page to have your say.

Engage Ottawa: have your say on the new recreation pass proposal

The City of Ottawa offers many recreational services to encourage residents to keep active and healthy. Currently, residents can participate in activities like swimming, skating, weights and cardio, aquafitness and group fitness classes in more than 20 recreation facilities.

To ensure residents are paying fair costs for the services they are accessing, the City is reviewing its model for memberships and admissions. Recreation services can be accessed by paying a drop-in admission fee, by purchasing a membership or by buying a multi-visit pass.

The goal of the new membership and admissions model is to fairly redistribute the costs of recreation services and is not intended to boost revenues. The majority of members would pay a similar rate to what they’re paying now, and some may even see a slight decrease in their fees. There are some membership categories that will see an increase to their fees.

Fill out the Engage Ottawa survey to have your say.

Cold weather resources

The Ottawa Public Health Cold Weather webpage provides information about preventing cold related injuries, such as frostbite, as well as medical emergencies such as hypothermia, and includes links to resources in our community to help people access winter clothing, hot meals and other food, obtain assistance with home heating costs, and find emergency shelter (including transportation to shelter).

The webpage also has an interactive map of places to warm up, including City of Ottawa operated community centres. These are places throughout the city where people are welcome to go to warm up during the cold. They are open during business hours throughout the year and access is free of charge. Locations included on the map are validated at the beginning of the season.

Residents can call 2-1-1, the Community Navigation of Eastern Ontario, to obtain information about services and locations of drop-in centres, community and health resource centres, food banks and community food programs, and where to obtain winter clothing, and financial assistance for their utilities.

Procedures for 3-1-1 staff related to extreme cold weather are regularly reviewed by OPH subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and consistency in 3-1-1 messaging. In addition to existing procedures, 3-1-1 staff receive up-to-date information via media advisories and public service announcements related to extreme weather to relay to concerned residents.

Who to Call

Our office put together a comprehensive list of community resources, to help in situations where you or a neighbour might be in distress. Feel free to print this out, post on your fridge and share with your neighbours and local businesses.

Latest posts

Happy New Year, crisis pilot update, response to recent tickets and VUT declaration time

Happy New Year, crisis pilot update, response to recent tickets and VUT declaration time

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to get some downtime and the ability to connect with friends and loved ones over the last couple of weeks. I am back from a family trip and gearing up for a busy few weeks at City Hall and in the community. While things have been relatively quiet since I last wrote to you, I wanted to update you on a few key issues.

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