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Cornerstone Housing for Women moving to bigger location

An Ottawa women’s shelter says it is moving at the end of the month into a bigger space that is able to offer shelter to more people.

Cornerstone Housing for Women announced that its emergency shelter on O’Connor Street will be moving to a new location on Carling Avenue that will give it 150 beds, more than double its current capacity. The new shelter space will also have an additional 15 beds designated as overflow shelter spaces, in case other women’s shelters in the city are full.

“Every day, I get calls from women asking if we have room and it breaks my heart to tell them ‘no’. It furthers their belief that they are not seen, heard, or valued. With this new shelter location, Cornerstone will be able to meet the increasing demand for women’s shelter services,” said Cornerstone’s associate director of shelter services, Shannon Miller. “Here, more women and gender-diverse people will be able to heal, access essential healthcare and social services, and ultimately find housing.”

The current O’Connor Street location has space for 61 beds, but it was not built to be a shelter. Cornerstone says it has been working with the City of Ottawa for the last 10 years to expand its services.

“The City of Ottawa has seen unprecedented demand for shelter services since the COVID-19 pandemic. Cornerstone is a key community partner that is helping to ensure women experiencing homelessness are provided with the needed support to stabilize and obtain long-term housing,” said Paul Lavigne, the City of Ottawa’s director of housing services. “The new site is an important milestone in expanding the City’s permanent shelter capacity for women and gender-diverse individuals, which will support our work towards exiting overflow shelter spaces operating in community centres.”

The new building on Carling Avenue, the site of the former Carling Family Shelter, will be accessible, with an elevator, wide hallways, and a common room that can host up to 70 people at a time.

Interim executive director Kate Jackson told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that this move is a huge undertaking.

“It’s really important for our organization to be able to increase capacity to really support the strain on the system that we’re seeing in the city of Ottawa,” she said. “This move… will allow us to provide more services and better services to the most vulnerable individuals in our city.”

Jackson says a lack of affordable housing, an increase in mental illness post-pandemic, and an increased number of newcomers contribute to the increased demand Cornerstone is witnessing.

“We’ve seen the need increase over the last few years at a rate that’s really incomprehensible,” she said.

Jackson said Cornerstone is looking for staff for the emergency shelter and at its supportive housing building on Eccles Street, which opens this month.

“We’re looking for individuals to come join a great organization like Cornerstone and do really meaningful work. I’m happy to say we have an incredible staff here, but we are looking for more individuals to join,” she said.

Cornerstone says it will be moving the initial 61 residents of the O’Connor Street shelter to the new location in the coming weeks, with the other 89 beds to be filled in a phased approach.

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