For the last 62 years, the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (YSB) has been serving our most vulnerable youth in the downtown core of Ottawa. For the first time, we were forced to close our Downtown Drop-in over several days for the safety of our clients and staff. This Drop-in is a refuge for youth from all over Ottawa. YSB’s clients are vulnerable youth, who come to our Drop-in to access food, warmth, and support from youth workers. As of today, we have re-opened the Drop-in, as our staff recognize the increased needs of youth in the area. However, we remain very concerned about their safety related to this unlawful occupation.
Given the many reports of outright bigotry connected to this protest, including racism, homophobia, and misogyny, our diverse group of clients is especially at risk. They deserve a city that is safe, where they can walk outside without fear.
Staff at our other downtown locations, including our two emergency shelters, have had disruptive and difficult days since this unlawful protest has occupied the downtown. Those of us who work in the sector are very aware of what $800K a day could do to help end homelessness in our city.
Our emergency shelters have remained open throughout. Staff and youth at our shelters have had to deal with incessant noise and intimidation tactics in our neighbourhoods, which has led to significant stress. Staff staying downtown have not been able to sleep, due to the noise levels, which makes working a 12-hour shift especially difficult. Our staff members have been working with all of the protective health measures in place throughout this pandemic, to help keep our clients safe.
This occupation is hurting vulnerable people. People have suffered enough, and we call for the authorities to end it.
Suzanne Fraser, Youth Services Bureau
About the Youth Services Bureau
YSB is one of the largest and most comprehensive non-profit agencies serving youth in Ottawa. It offers more than 30 programs and serves 3,000 youth and families every month in the areas of youth engagement, housing and homelessness, mental health, youth justice and employment.
The Downtown Services and Drop‑in is a street-front program of YSB. Located in Ottawa’s downtown core (147 Besserer Street), the centre provides a safe place for youth who are unstably housed, live in poverty, or are living on the streets. Here, youth connect with peers facing similar challenges in an environment of acceptance and respect. Working with counsellors, youth identify their needs, set goals and get connected to the support and services they need to achieve those goals. For some, this means filling basic needs—free access to telephones and the internet, showers, a food bank, clothing, laundry facilities, and a healthy meal. For others, the Drop-in is a lifeline to housing, crisis counselling, addictions treatment, health care and support on the journey to independence.