The emergency shelter system has been facing unprecedented demand. The shelter system was at full capacity for most of the summer, which is unusual for the sector. The demand on the system has grown exponentially driven in large part by a significant and unprecedented inflow of newcomers. Additionally, there are over 250 people currently living unsheltered, a large portion of whom will seek to access shelter services through the winter.

It is anticipated that over 70% of these individuals will seek to access shelter services through the winter. We are faced with the reality that the current system and spaces will be unable to respond to the needs, as such, additional space is needed to reduce overcrowding in the system and ensure no one goes unsheltered.

The City has completed an extensive search for facilities and is in the process of securing long term solutions, however these solutions will not be in place in time to support the immediate needs. Given the pressures that the system is seeing at present, the City will maintain its existing two Physical Distancing – Emergency Overflow Centres and will be opening an additional temporary Emergency Overflow Centre at the Heron Road Community Centre to support the continued need for additional community shelter space for single individuals for the winter months.

For any questions related to the opening of the Heron Road Community Centre as a Emergency Overflow Centre e-mail or call 613-552-6759.

For specific questions about programs and services offered and impacted at the Heron Road Community Centre call 613-580-2424 ext. 16384.

1. When is the Heron Road Physical Distancing- Emergency Overflow Centre reopening?

The City aims to open for operation in mid to late November 2023.

2. What will happen to the programs and services currently being offered at the Heron Road Community Centre?

The Food Bank services will remain open, on-site, with minimal impacts to their operations. Recreation, Culture and Facility Services (RCFS) staff are currently working on transitioning other services to alternate location(s). For specific questions about programs and services call 613-580-2424 ext. 16384.

The location was selected as it best responds to logistical and safety needs for use as a PDC due to its configuration and onsite facilities, such as washrooms, showers and eating area. Other considerations in selecting facilities were based on:

  • Existing engineering approvals to operate the facility as a PDC
  • Feasibility of accessing and operationalizing within the required timelines
  • Number of people that can be supported on-site
  • Fiscal implications

4. Who will be accessing the Heron Road Physical Distancing-Emergency Overflow Centre?

The Centre will serve up to 200 single individuals experiencing homelessness, aged 18 years and older with low support needs. Clients with higher needs will be supported at community shelter locations.

5. Are community shelters continuing to serve clients?

Yes, the community shelters continue to support those in need, however, their permanent beds, including their overflow spaces, are full and the system is at capacity. Physical Distancing-Emergency Overflow Centres act as a temporary extension to the existing community shelter system and is only one component of the community response to the increased demand for shelter.

6. What amenities and supports are available at this location?

The Physical Distancing – Emergency Overflow Centre will offer food, bathrooms, showers, sleeping area, and Wi-Fi. Staff will also provide individuals with general case management support on site that includes housing search and applications, social assistance applications, coordinating medical appointments and supporting employment search where needed.

7. Do clients have to leave the premises during the day?

No. Clients are allowed to remain on-site during the day.

8. How do clients access service at the Heron Road Physical Distancing-Emergency Overflow Centre?

To make a request for placement, call the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1 or Toll-Free at 1-866-261-9799.

9. Will there be staff and/or security on site?

Yes, there will be staff and security on site 24/7 who will also monitor the perimeter of the building.

10. When will the Heron Road Physical Distancing – Emergency Overflow Centre close and returned for regular programing?

The specific closure date is unknown at this time; however, all efforts are being made to operationalize longer term plans and return the facility for regular recreational programming as soon as possible.

11. What else is the city doing to support people who are experiencing homelessness?

In addition to the current Physical Distancing – Emergency Overflow Centres, there are several initiatives underway to support people experiencing homelessness, and those sleeping unsheltered, including:

  • Working with residents to support more permanent housing options such as private or subsidized housing
  • Enhanced housing benefits to help people secure and afford housing in the private market
  • Making referrals to community partners for additional supports (mental health, addictions, etc.)

12. Is the Ottawa Police Service aware of the Physical Distancing-Emergency Overflow Centre opening at the Heron Road Community Centre?

Yes, Housing Services has been in contact with both the Ottawa Police Services, Paramedic Services and By-law and Regulatory Services to inform of plans and collaborate with the safety and security of the site.

13. When the site opens as a Physical Distancing-Emergency Overflow Centre, who do I contact if I have a concern or question?

For non-police related issues:

  • Call the onsite Supervisor at 613-247-4808 who will support and/or triage accordingly, or
  • Email –

14. What can the community do to support clients staying at the Heron Road Physical Distancing-Emergency Overflow Centre?

  • The most important thing the community can do is welcome individuals in their community.
  • For health and safety reasons, donations of clothing, household items and fresh or prepared foods are not accepted on-site. Instead, residents are encouraged to donate to the charity of their choice.
  • Individuals are provided with supplies for daily living, and if needed, referred to community agencies to meet additional needs.