Westboro federal office building to be used as temporary warming shelter

The exterior of The Graham Spry Building
The Graham Spry Building will be used to house the homeless this winter.
File photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

A new temporary warming shelter is opening up in the Westboro area to help homeless individuals get out of the cold.

On Friday, the federal government and City of Ottawa announced the Graham Spry Building at 250 Lanark Avenue would be used to help those on the streets seek refuge in a safe space. It will house up to 45 people at a time. 

“During these colder months, it is essential that we work together to protect everyone in our communities, including those who are more vulnerable,” said Minister of Public Services and Procurement Jean-Yves Duclos in a news release.

The building is one of 10 the federal government announced last year would be disposed of to be converted into housing for vulnerable individuals. It was recently home to Health Canada, and before that, served as the CBC Ottawa television studios which later moved downtown.

The centre will be open from Jan. 20 to March 30, of this year.

“As we find ways to accelerate and streamline the process of converting surplus federal properties into affordable housing and redesigned space that will benefit Canadians, we are seeking meaningful opportunities to use these properties to best serve local communities,” said Duclos. 

On the ground floor of the seven-storey building, there are washrooms and showers. While the federal government owns the building, the city will be in charge of managing its operations. 

In a statement Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said the city is a caring place that looks after the most vulnerable population. 

“The city is committed to continuing to work towards ensuring that solutions are found so that, during our winter, there are warm places for everyone,” he said. 

Ottawa Homeless emergency

Ottawa is in the midst of a homeless emergency. 

Shelters in the city have reported they are over capacity, with even their overflow areas being full. Some on the streets are being forced to sleep in chairs at tables, unable to find a place where they can lie down.

It’s expected 300 people are calling the streets home every night.

In Britannia, the Ron Kolbus Centre has recently been used as a temporary shelter with 25 beds that are given on a referral basis. The location has come under scrutiny for its lack of accessibility, leading to only a few individuals using the site. It also doesn’t have showers. 

With the new Westboro shelter opening, the Britannia location is expected to close.

In November, the Huron Road Community Centre in Alta Visa opened a shelter to house 200 individuals.

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