Ottawa Mission once again welcomes community clients back for a sit down and dine meals
After 32 months, COVID-19 levels low enough for community clients to congregate in shelter
Those frequenting The Ottawa Mission are like family to Alfred Grady.
The 60-year-old said the shelter, with its friendly faces and warm atmosphere, has a profound impact on those living through the darker chapters of their lives.
“This place gives me the ability to be me,” said Grady, who is homeless.
Now for the first time in 32 months, community clients of The Ottawa Mission can once again walk through its doors, sit down in the dining hall, and enjoy a hot meal.
Only those who live at the shelter could eat inside during the pandemic, with staff screening to ensure only residents came inside to enjoy a meal.
Since March 17, 2020, the shelter has served only takeout meals to the community as a precaution against spreading COVID-19 in a congregate setting, but reopened its doors as of Monday.
The Mission made its decision after discussions with Ottawa Inner City Health and Ottawa Public Health. Those two organizations advised the shelter that COVID-19 has declined enough to have community clients inside again.
Masking and other pandemic protocols will continue to help keep illnesses at bay.
‘Spirit of sharing and giving’
Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley said, for some people, eating a meal next to others can make a significant impact.
“There’s quite a difference between picking up a takeout meal and going back to your room of isolation versus coming in here and getting the spirit of being in the kitchen and the dining room of the Ottawa Mission — that spirit of sharing and giving,” said Tilley.
The shelter has served up two takeout meals each day since the start of the pandemic, but will now provide three meals per day.
Tilley called Monday “one of the most inspiring days” at the Mission, as staff was invigorated by a packed dining room and the gratitude in the eyes of those sitting down to eat, he said.
“So many people who were once outside are now inside,” he said.
They’ve also missed eight holiday meals from Easter 2020 through this past Thanksgiving.
But during this year’s Christmas season meal, rooming house residents — isolated and living alone — women, children and families can gather and be served by city officials, he said.
The reopening also means client services, only available to the shelter’s residents during the pandemic, can now be provided to those in the wider community.
Grady said he’s used the Mission since the 1990s, often coming in to speak with the pastor. The pandemic has been difficult on the shelter’s clients, said Grady, who has spent 25 years in and out of jail while struggling with drug use.
It’s so much better when those in the community can sit down next to others, he said, and make human connections.
“We’re all family, in a sense, in our own little place,” he said. “This is my family, even though I only come and go.”
This article was first reported by CBC News