Building bridges: working with residents to help them access the services they need

Published on
February 1, 2024
Social services
A cityscape with the silhouettes of adults and children participating in various activities.

Feature story

This story is part of the City of Ottawa Service Reviews: an initiative aimed at ensuring our services are meeting your needs. Visit today.

During public consultations led by the City’s Community Safety and Well-Being (CSWB) Plan team in 2021, residents voiced a resounding call for easier access to social services. A staggering 49 per cent of respondents highlighted the complexity of accessing City services, and 40 per cent expressed a lack of awareness about the array of services available in their communities. So, what is being done to make these services easier to access for residents who need them?

Bringing services directly to residents

In response to the consultations, and in line with the CSWB Plan’s priority to integrate and simplify systems, the City has spent the past three years redefining its delivery of social services. The core objectives emerging from this collaborative effort included fostering data sharing, enhancing the efficiency of community grant funding and ensuring improved access to services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City created an Outreach and Mobile Services Team comprised of case workers who address the diverse needs of residents by bringing essential programs and services directly into the community. From helping with employment and financial assistance to referrals to resources like child care and other social services, the team is deployed across various locations, including shelters, community centers and food banks, ensuring that assistance is accessible to those who need it most.

To continue addressing the needs of residents, another on-the-ground team was created in 2022. The Community Engagement Team works with residents in areas that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as Lowertown, Byward Market and the downtown core. In its first six months alone, the team engaged in nearly 6,000 interactions with residents, tirelessly working to identify needs and connect individuals with the services they require.

Members of the Community Engagement Team serve as conduits between the City and its diverse population, bridging gaps between housed and unhoused residents, local businesses and community partners. Through active listening and empathy, they gather valuable insights into the challenges faced by the community, ensuring that their interventions are both targeted and effective.

Providing essential services all in one hub

A pivotal milestone in this ambitious endeavor materialized with the establishment of the Catherine Street Community Service Hub. Located in the heart of Centretown, this hub emerged as an accessible haven for residents seeking support. Distinguished by its person-centered approach, the Hub has consolidated City and community social services under one roof. Its diverse programming, ranging from crisis and housing support to financial and social assistance, demonstrates a commitment to holistic community well-being.

Your city, your ideas!

As the wheels of change continue to turn in Ottawa, these initiatives underscore a commitment to a more integrated, accessible and resident-centric model of social service delivery. Do you have creative ideas related to this or other City services? Share your ideas at

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