(Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash)
Various orders of government and community organizations have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources and supports that have resulted can be difficult to keep track of, so we have compiled a list here that we will update regularly. Residents can also dial 2-1-1 Help Line, which offers referrals to local community, social, government and health services.
The City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force
A Human Needs Task Force has been implemented as part of the City’s Emergency Management Plan and emergency response to COVID-19 to ensure that we are responsive to the emerging needs of the community. Check out their page for support and assistance. The task force is currently focused on service coordination for immediate, medium and long-term response associated with five emerging needs:
- Outreach to isolated seniors
- Food security
- Volunteer coordination
- Housing and homeless needs
Human Needs Task Force contact information:
English: [email protected]
French: [email protected]
Phone number: 613-580-2424 ext. 26753
Employment and Social Services
Financial assistance may be available to help people meet their basic living expenses. Where no other financial resources are available, emergency financial assistance may be provided during a crisis. It is generally for health-related items, such as:
- Personal care items
- Diabetic, surgical, incontinence and ostomy supplies
- Mobility devices
- Housing-related arrears
For Emergency financial assistance call 3-1-1 and press 4 for social services. Individuals are asked to not visit any Employment and Social Service centre location in person. All requests are to be completed over the phone. Staff will assess which programs residents are eligible for. Existing clients can also call or email their case workers. In addition, Ontario Works has a service available to clients called MyBenefits. It is an online tool that allows clients to report changes or get information about their Ontario Works case. Individuals who have applied for Employment Insurance but are waiting for their first payment can apply for Ontario Works Assistance.
Several community partners – including the Ottawa Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Montfort Renaissance and the Champlain Community Support Network of more than 20 local non-profit agencies – are working to deliver food hampers, hot meals and groceries to seniors and other at-risk residents across Ottawa, including in rural areas. By working with community partners to reach out to rural communities, the City is ensuring all residents have access to food. Anyone who needs food can contact any of these agencies through 2-1-1 or contact these services directly:
- Ottawa Food Bank: 613-745-7001 and www.ottawafoodbank.ca
- Good Companions (Meals on Wheels): 613-236-0428 and www.thegoodcompanions.ca. Also contactable for urgent transportation to appointments
Offering flexible payment plans in order to provide customers with more time to pay outstanding balances on their account if needed. Customers seeking financial assistance programs, including emergency relief, can find information on the Hydro Ottawa website.
Ottawa Community Housing
Concerned about a neighbour in your OCH building? OCH is providing wellness checks. Phone contact: 613-731-1182. Ottawa Community Housing’s full response to COVID-19 can be monitored here.
- Updates on Ottawa Public Health’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.
- Full listing of City supports here.
- The City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force and Ottawa Public Health have prepared this document with information on Financial Resources, Community Resources, Mental Health Resources, and Online Educational Supports.
- The City has compiled a list of services and facilities impacted by COVID-19 here.
Various non-governmental organizations and community groups are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by providing various new or enhanced resources and services. Here is a short list:
Resources for Seniors:
- Seniors Centre Without Walls (SCWW): Through the use of multi-person phone calls, SCWW provides the opportunity for participants to join in on health and wellness seminars, educational lectures, brain-stimulating activities, listen to live musical entertainment, join in on general conversations, and make new and meaningful friendships – all from the comfort of home! Call 613-236-0428.
Chatting to Wellness is hosting free Chatting Sessions for seniors to combat loneliness and isolation. Local university students are available by phone every weekday evening between 6pm – 9pm EST to chat with seniors for 45 minutes at a time. Sign up by visiting www.chattingtowellness.ca/phonechats.
Resources for Mental Health:
- Mental Health Crisis Line: If you are experiencing a mental health crisis yourself, or you know someone who is, please phone the 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line: 613-722-6914. Visit https://crisisline.ca/ for more information.
- Youth Services Bureau 24/7 Crisis Line: 613-260-2360 (or chat online).
- The Canadian Association for Mental Health also offers some great tips on coping with stress and anxiety about COVID-19. Their fact sheet on talking to children about COVID-19 is a great resource for families.
- The Walk-in Counselling Clinic offers single-session counselling free of charge, only by trained mental health professionals (Social Workers, Registered Psychotherapist, Psychologists). There are no waiting lists, and no referrals are necessary. Counselling sessions are offered in English, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish and Somali. Call 613-755-2277 or find more information at www.walkincounselling.com.
Community Legal Services of Ottawa has been operating full-time during the pandemic. Our offices are closed for in-person visits but our legal clinic staff members continue to work remotely. Residents of Ottawa can call any of our offices for assistance: Downtown Office: 613-241-7008; West Office: 613-596-1641; South Office: 613-733-0140. For more information about our legal clinic’s services, click here. For legal information factsheets about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other government benefits, click here to visit the Connecting Ottawa website.
Steps to Justice, updated daily, gives answers to more than 80 legal questions, including questions about emergency benefits assistance, Employment Insurance, being evicted for non-payment of rent, and what to do about urgent family law problems with the courts.
You can find the legal information you need at https://stepstojustice.ca/covid-19.
Pro Bono Ontario is still providing free legal assistance to low-income Ontarians for their everyday legal problems. They have pivoted all operations to the Free Legal Advice Hotline and have started developing specialized resources to help answer legal questions related to COVID-19 shut-downs. The Hotline is a safe, convenient way for Ontarians to get help with:
- Employment issues
- Housing issues
- Consumer debt and protection problems
- Corporate law for small businesses and non-profits
- Powers of Attorney &
- Civil litigation*
Dial 1-855-255-7256. Hours of operation are Monday – Friday from 9:30 am – 11:30 am and 1:00 – 3:30 pm. *PBO does not assist with criminal, family, immigration or estate administration issues.
Resources for Workers
- The Workers Rights Action Project in Ottawa has launched a new Ottawa Workers Hotline: A hotline for Ottawa workers looking for information and support. Problems at work? Questions about your rights? Are you worried about health and safety or income support because of COVID-19? Call them at 613-981-3606. The hotline is open Mondays and Thursdays 6-9pm. Text or WhatsApp or leave a voicemail, they will respond to you during these hours. All calls are free and confidential. E-mail: [email protected]. They are offering support in English, French, Spanish, Punjabi, Somali and Tagalog.
- Ottawa Public Health has published a letter that employees can offer to employers in lieu of a sick note.
Resources for Tenants:
- Ottawa, Keep Your Rent, a coalition of tenants, are, amongst other things, currently offering organizing resources to tenants who want to organize in their building to collectively withhold rent payments. Contact them at [email protected] or at 343-883-5608.
Ottawa ACORN, a community union of low-income tenants, has established the ACORN Support Network in response to COVID-19 which:
- Engages with people on a regular basis
- Gives up to date info on unfolding crisis
- Connects people with services available in their community
- Gets folks active in ACORN COVID-19 Campaigns
- Hosts digital literacy workshops so they can be connected to family and friends
Get in touch with ACORN through email: [email protected], or by phone: 613-746-5999
Our office has also compiled a list of local organizations that could use support or are advocating for a more robust response from governments, which can be found here. We are also tracking interest in volunteering here.
If your needs at this time are not adequately met by any of the resources below, let us know here, and we will try to connect you with local volunteers or other supports that may be able to help you.