Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau is closing its downtown drop-in center this weekend over safety concerns for staff and the vulnerable customers it serves, as more convoys of trucks and protesters arrive in the capital.
The drop-in center is on the corner of Besserer Street and Waller Street in ByWard Market and near what police call the “Red Zone,” where most protests take place and many streets are closed.
“It’s highly visible and we proudly display our Pride and Transgender flags on our building,” said Joanne Lowe, CEO of YSB. “Our concern is that when we open, the youth will come and when they come, and if it gets really chaotic and unsafe in the building, we’re not sure we can keep everyone safe in these circumstances.”
The Center provides a safe haven for youth across Ottawa who are insecure, live in poverty, or are living on the streets. Youth have access to food, warmth and contact with peers facing similar challenges, and receive support from staff and advisors.
“We let our employees do their best, sometimes they sit in traffic for a very long time trying to get to work,” says Lowe, adding that the workers were offered hotel rooms.
“The challenge with the hotels, quite frankly, is that the hotels are filled with people who don’t really want to follow the precautions and don’t want to wear the masks, so our staff most likely won’t take our offer and they’ll just try to go after.” to come home.”
Convoy trucks were parked just a few hundred yards from the shelter, and Lowe says some of the youths saw protesters holding Confederate flags and swastikas.
“It scares them and they have every right to be scared, it’s a very legitimate fear, quite frankly, and we’ve heard young people openly say they’re scared,” says Lowe. “Because they know what that means and they know there are views about their choices and their lives and how they live their lives that a lot of people in this profession actually don’t necessarily support.”
YSB also provides two emergency centers that remain open. Customers who use the contact point regularly will be contacted over the weekend if necessary and referred to these accommodations.
The YSB has a 24/7 Crisis Line & Chat Services for children and young people aged 17 and under experiencing a crisis and for parents, guardians, carers, friends or service providers who are concerned about a young person either online during a crisis or by calling 613-260-2360 or 1-877-377-7775.