By Matthew Horwood
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped Hintonburg non-profit organization Causeway from assisting those with mental health issues in finding meaningful employment.
The new executive director of Causeway Work Centre, Hailey Hechtman, said “some big changes had to be made,” but that Causeway’s service providers have taken creative steps to continue supporting their Ottawa clients.
Causeway has been assisting people with mental health issues to find employment and live independently since 1977. Over the years, the non-profit has evolved its activities to meet the needs of a broader spectrum of people, through one-on-one support, training and employment programs, cross-sector partnerships, and by creating socially-minded businesses.
In March, Causeway was initially forced to close its doors to the public. It remains closed to the public, but continues to provide its services remotely. The organization received funding from the Ottawa Community Foundation to purchase laptops and webcams for staff to work at home, and for clients to attend virtual job interviews.
Since April, Causeway has received 70 new clients and has connected 32 with jobs.
“We’re really happy we’ve been able to provide that. Our job specialists do a ton of follow-ups with clients, and are looking to stay connected and see how people are doing as they navigate this very uncertain environment,” Hechtman said.
Causeway has several program avenues to support clients in finding employment. Job Quest is a rapid-supported employment program that helps clients prepare for job interviews and write resumes, and finds work suited to their career preferences and goals.
Solutions for Youth assists young people with developing the skills and work habits necessary to find employment, through four-week workshops and 12-week work placements.
Causeway is also partnered with Rise. The national charity is dedicated to providing those with mental health conditions or addictions with a path towards self-employment or small business ownership, through a combination of business training, mentorship and low-interest microloans.
Causeway’s community supports can also assist clients facing additional barriers to employment — such as mental health problems, addictions and those living in poverty — by referring them to additional supports.
Causeway has a growing network of social enterprises: Small businesses that provide clients with skills training and a supportive work environment. Good Nature Groundskeeping was able to continue providing its professional lawn cutting, hedge trimming and garbage removal services throughout the pandemic.
But Causeway’s other social businesses, Krackers Katering and Cycle Salvation, were forced to temporarily shut down in March. Both the businesses have since reopened, with some minor changes.
Hechtman said volunteer-run Cycle Salvation reopened in April and has done “quite well” since then due to an increased demand for refurbished bicycles and repairs, including from employees of Good Nature Groundskeeping. The business has taken a “walk-through window approach” to its operations in order to maintain physical distancing.
Krackers Katering was no longer able to provide its regular catering services to private and public-sector events, making it the social enterprise hardest hit by COVID-19. Causeway was forced to search for employment opportunities for clients previously employed at the catering company.
As a result, Causeway teamed up with Parkdale Food Centre to allow a former client to work as a delivery driver three times a week. The City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 Social Service Relief Funding allowed Causeway to set up a food hamper program for clients, so that an added six Krackers Katering employees could create and deliver personalized food packages to 50 to 70 individuals a week.
Krackers Katering officially reopened in August thanks to a partnership with the Parkdale Food Centre and their “Cooking for a Cause” program. The social enterprise’s clients are now preparing over 250 take-home meals a week for outreach workers to deliver to people in need.
In the future, Hechtman said that Causeway will be integrating its programs more effectively so that clients can be more easily connected to the services they require. And Causeway will also be expanding its network to partner with more organizations in Ottawa supporting similar clients.
“Over the next few months, it will be an evolution of how we can best support the community, and we will look at different ideas to do that. We are better off doing that by collaborating with other agencies, so I’m seeing where there are opportunities to work together,” Hechtman said.
Causeway Work Centre is located at 22 O’Meara St. To learn more about the organization and its programs, visit http://www.causewayworkcentre.org.
This story appeared in the October 2020 Giving section of Kitchissippi Times.