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, 613-277-7103

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.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Milo's Story

Every year when I was little, I’d think “this will be the year that everything will be okay”. And every year, I’d be crushed. By the time I was 18 I couldn’t take my dad’s drinking or my mom’s crying anymore, so I packed a knapsack with the warmest clothes I had and I left. It was freezing cold, and I was alone…but I was free.

The next few months were rough and at times very scary. I spent nights in parks, doorways and even under bridges all with just an old sleeping bag a friend had given me. One night it was so cold that I walked until the sun came up, afraid that I would freeze to death if I slept.

It took me awhile to get over the embarrassment to start asking people for money. But, it was swallow my pride or stay cold and hungry. After two weeks of doing this I learned about YSB. I didn’t know it then but, in that moment, my life changed for the better. I got connected to YSB’s Young Men’s Emergency Shelter and my first night in the shelter I slept 11 hours. I felt so safe and secure. I remember that moment clearly and I felt so hopeful I now have my own apartment in one of YSB’s long-term housing buildings, am attending college to become a graphic designer, and am working part-time to support myself.

“For the first time I can remember, I’m really excited about my future. Growing up I just thought about getting by one day at a time.” I hope my story conveys just how life changing it was for me to be able to access YSB’s shelter during a really difficult time in my life. The team at YSB supported me every step of the way, and I’m grateful they were by my side. I hope you’ll consider taking the opportunity to transform the life of another young person like me today.


*While Milo’s story is real his name has been changed to protect his privacy