Where are the homeless staying, eating, and socializing during this pandemic?

Larry Newman

I’m writing this article while in the fifth day of “self isolation.” It’s not so bad. We talk and video chat with friends and family. We order delivery of food and other essentials—no TP purchases though. How about those who are homeless? How and where are they socializing and eating and sleeping? I made a few phone calls and Facebook queries. This is what I found.

In our immediate neighbourhood there are three main sources of food and shelter for homeless people: The Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray and King Edward, the Ottawa Mission on the corner of Waller and Daly/Besserer, and The Salvation Army’s Booth Centre at 171 George Street.

The Shepherds of Good Hope provide both shelter and meals for clients. They also provide lunch for anyone who drops in. Years ago when I toured the Sheps, my guide told me that they serve 300 people for lunch on average. They now offer take-out food from a food bank located in the lower level of the former school facing King Edward Avenue. Their usual variety of group programs to help clients deal with their various conditions have been cancelled during this epidemic.

The Ottawa Mission also provides clients with shelter and meals. Take-out community meals are available from 1–1:30 pm at the entrance of their building at the corner of Waller and Besserer. However, the Client Services Building is closed and all client social activities have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

The Booth Centre provides shelter and meals to their clients as well as supplying food from their food bank. A recent Facebook post asked “those in need of emergency food to please call ahead to make an appointment at 613-241-1573 x 268 or x 221 as we are serving only one family or individual at a time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to reduce groups congregating together.” Until last April, they offered lunch to walk-in traffic but no longer.

St. Joe’s Supper Table, 151 Laurier East, which offered supper on weekdays is closed until further notice but the food bank has re-opened on Thursdays and Fridays by appointment only, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. To book an appointment call Ryan Mitchell at 613-233-4095 ext 240 or email Leave your name and address and preferred time. The Wiggins satellite food bank remains closed so clients should call St. Joe’s instead.

Odawa’s drop-in centre at 510 Rideau had offered social activities and food all day but is now closed. Food deliveries (the Bannock Bus) are being made to the centre’s clients.

The Drop-In centre at the corner of Rideau and Cobourg has closed and now offers coffee and snacks through a take-out window.

Centre 454 at St Albans is closed until further notice.

Since the health emergency was announced in mid-March, the foyer at Loblaws on Rideau St. has featured a handwashing station and a stern warning to loiterers.
Photo Frank Heilingbrunner


An isolation centre at the Routhier Community Centre in Lowertown opened on March 23 to provide space for homeless single men and single women who need to self-isolate— people who do have or may have Covid19. The current capacity is 10 beds, with the ability to expand to 40 beds if needed. Supports for residents within the centre are being provided by Ottawa Inner City Health and Ottawa Public Health. Ottawa Housing Services has secured a 29-room building at Ottawa University to provide isolation space for families and youth, which, as we went to press, was anticipated to open the first week of April. These places are to help lower the risk of the virus spreading in shelters.

Donations needed:

Most of these organization make a point of asking for food donations or $$$ to offset the continuing and probably increasing demands from a disadvantaged population.