By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, October 2022)
The six-storey, 40-unit John Howard Society (JHS) supportive-housing complex will soon welcome its first staff, residents and visitors. It has been a long road.
A supportive-housing residence was proposed for the then parking lot in 2016. The JHS was selected in early 2019; construction began in early December 2020 and was initially expected to be completed by the end of 2021. As with many other building projects, supply-chain issues, construction worker shortages and other challenges befell this project, causing a delay of nearly a year.
However, the exterior is now nearly complete, and work continues on the interior. As construction moves into its final phases, the focus is on finalizing staffing and programming. The building will house people who are “chronically homeless” and require support but also have a level of stability that allows them to live in their own self-contained apartments. Support can include medication management, periodic medical care and case-management services such as addictions management and employment support. Given the relative stability of the tenants, there will not be a full-time health partner onsite. Instead, Joshua Bridges, the residential coordinator for the site, envisages three case managers for the 40 residents with a nurse practitioner visiting once or twice a week. The building will be staffed 24/7 by support workers, complemented during the day and parts of the evening by the case-management team.
Tenants will be drawn from a centralized priority list, with many coming from temporary accommodations such as shelters. Tenants must be over 18. Thirty per cent of the units are reserved for individuals who have identified as Indigenous. Before leases are signed, the JHS will speak with case workers and prospective tenants to see if this location is a good fit for them. Tenants are shown available rooms and can decide which they prefer. They will pay rent with support from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program or with employment income.
Some have asked if residents’ offsite activities will be controlled or monitored. The answer is no – they will have the same rights and privileges as other community members. However, if anyone witnesses problematic behaviour, they are urged to let Bridges know – he is committed to working with the community to ensure successful integration of this facility into the neighbourhood.
The rooms will be fully furnished (including window coverings to ensure a cohesive look) and equipped with kitchens. Smoking will be allowed inside the units, but not in the public portions of the building. The residences will be on floors four to six of the tower. There will be office space and education/training facilities on the second and third floors, with parking in the basement and on the main floor. The top of the podium will include two terraces – one for residents overlooking Bell Street South and one for staff facing the Lakelander condominium.
Education and training services will include a variety of programming such as literacy support, employment, training and counselling, art therapy, as well as a full school/educational program. These are day programs, with approximately 60 to 90 people coming to the building each day, usually between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. While some current residents have expressed concern about day guests loitering, all programs are scheduled and are not done on a drop-in basis, so JHS staff expect that people will come for a specific service and leave when it’s done, as is the case at their current location.
Staff will move in first, as this building will become the main administrative office for the JHS in Ottawa. JHS staff are currently in the Byward Market and are expected to move in mid to late October if all goes well. Residents and education/training clients will follow in November, marking the start of a new chapter in the story of 289 Carling.