City opens arena to give homeless men some space
Jim Durrell complex on Walkley Road has room for up to 140
A hockey arena in Ottawa's south end has been converted into a shelter for homeless single men so they can safely keep their distance from others during the pandemic.
Many of the city's downtown shelters are already at capacity, making it difficult for clients to observe safe physical distancing practices, according to city officials.
To rectify that, the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre on Walkley Road has now been converted into a shelter with enough beds for up to 140 male clients over the age of 18.
"There's tremendous pressure on all of us to respect physical distancing, and that unfortunately is not always available or possible in the shelter system that is at capacity most nights. So this is going to take some pressure off the shelters downtown," Mayor Jim Watson said outside the arena Wednesday.
"We recognize that there are literally hundreds of people, if not thousands of people ... who don't have a home, who don't have a place to go and self isolate," Watson said.
City, province to cover cost
The men will be served three meals a day, and will be allowed to come and go from the facility during the day. There will also be computers with internet access.
Starting Saturday, the city will provide transportation from downtown shelters to the arena.
"These are individuals who are not as high-needs as some of the other people in the shelter system, so they're a little more independent, but they need a roof over their heads," Watson said.
He said funding for the converted arena will be provided by the City of Ottawa and the province.
"It's really about physical distancing and trying to create that space," said Shelley VanBuskirk, Ottawa's director of housing services.
VanBuskirk said there's also a plan in place to house homeless and vulnerable women and their children during the pandemic.
The city is not releasing the location of that facility because some of the women could be fleeing domestic violence.