By noon on a typical day, up to 100 citizens will walk through the doors at 507 Bank St. looking for a helping hand.
Too often, they have nowhere else to turn.
Centre 507 is a community drop-in center which offers services to combat homelessness, unstable housing, addiction and mental illness in the city.
“The Centre brings people out to socialize and makes for a more productive life to have somewhere to go and feel you’re part of something,” said Heather Weary, an Algonquin College graduate from the social service worker course.
Each year, Centre 507 allows a dozen students from the social service worker program at Algonquin to volunteer on placement at the Centre. Since its startup in 2009 there have been three graduates of the course hired as full-time staff.
Joshua Bridges, a graduate of the social service worker program at Algonquin, has been working with the Centre since getting hired on after finishing his placement there.
“We’re here for anyone who’s in need of food or security but the main part of it is providing people with the opportunity to be part of a community, a safe environment,” said Bridges.
Since celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013, Centre 507 has suffered massive budget cuts from the city of Ottawa. These cuts came about after the city introduced the “housing-first” approach, reallocating a significant amount of the budget into the city’s Ten Year Plan.
While prioritizing the housing-first approach which provides permanent housing as a foundation to help overcome secondary-issues such as addiction, the city-funded programs are no longer in place to help with the most susceptible cases
“The problem is there is just not enough housing to house everybody first,” said Weary. “It’s really hard to find people the services now if they need help.”
As a result, people are falling through the cracks of housing and immediate needs.
“You’re providing people the opportunity to get housed and then have additional support in order to maintain that housing,” added Bridges. “Once people are housed though they also need a sense of community and they’re not getting that.”
This is why on Nov. 14, Centre 507 is holding a benefit concert featuring the Toronto-area band BADBADNOTGOOD. The concert is taking place at Centretown United Church with all proceeds assisting Centre 507 program costs.
“We’re trying to replace the city funding with donations from the event,” said Linda Pollock, a board member and volunteer at Centre 507.