Pints to Parkas: How Clocktower Brew Pub is helping the homeless 

A coat hangs on a rock outside of the Clocktower Brew Pub.
Throughout the winter, Westboro’s Clocktower Brew Pub has been collecting used coats for the homeless. Photo by Charlie Senack. 

By Christina Korotkov

Manny Garcia, general manager of Clocktower Brew Pub, was scrolling through Facebook in 2019 when he came across a photo that would inspire a new way to give back.

The photo was of a clothing rack outside the front of a store. Posted by the shop itself, anyone was welcome to donate a winter jacket to be picked up by someone in need at their own discretion. 

“‘That’s kinda cool,’” Garcia remembered thinking when he said the post. “It’s so simple, yet so effective.”

In that moment, a new Clocktower tradition was born. 

Patrons quickly came on board with the idea and wanted to help. Calls started coming in around September when the rack was first placed outside.

Garcia said the tough times have meant jackets are usually taken off the rack hours after they are hung. He wishes other businesses would get involved to help ensure residents in need across the city can stay warm through the winter. 

“Not everybody is lucky to have a house and a warm place to stay. The community sees that, especially around here, it’s been getting worse and worse and people see that,” he said. “We need to help them.”

Two coats hang on a rack.
Coats hang on a rack outside Westboro’s Clocktower Brew Pub on March 1, 2024. Photo by Charlie Senack.

The idea wasn’t a foreign concept to the pub. Managers had already been gathering and donating winter jackets to the Shepherds of Good Hope since 2018. 

“It’s not just [downtown] that needs something like this,” said Jenni Levasseur, operations manager and general manager at Westboro’s Clocktower Pub. “The prices of everything, even in pubs and restaurants, have gone up so much. We just wanted to do something nice for the community.” 

The Clocktower has a history of community work. Pre-pandemic, they would volunteer at youth centers and cook meals for the kids. 

Housing the homeless 

According to 2021 stats, 1,340 Ottawa residents are experiencing homelessness, a number that is almost certainly higher today. 

Shelters are reporting they are over capacity more than ever before, with some clients having to sleep in chairs and at tables because the facilities have run out of beds and mats. 

In Westboro, a temporary warming shelter has been set up in the Graham Spry Building at 250 Lanark Avenue. The office complex is one of 10 federal buildings that are on a list to be disposed of for conversion into affordable housing. The temporary shelter has beds for 45 people and will be open until March 30.

“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.

In Britannia, the Ron Kolbus Centre was recently used as a temporary shelter with 25 beds that were given on a referral basis. The location came under scrutiny for its lack of accessibility, leading to only a few individuals using the site. 

Leave a comment