Wednesday November 1, 2023

Statement on the use of Heron Road Community Centre as a temporary shelter

Today the City of Ottawa announced its decision to use the Heron Road Community Centre as a shelter to provide relief for those experiencing homelessness —a move that will impact the already reduced recreational programs in Alta Vista for the foreseeable future.

I’m disappointed by this decision made by the City’s Housing Services Branch which has the delegated authority to determine the use of city-owned facilities to respond to housing emergencies.  While I fully support measures to help make sure no one sleeps on the street this winter, converting recreational facilities to shelters takes away resources needed by others in the community.

Alta Vista has and continues to do its share to help with the unprecedented demand for shelter beds in this city. For example:

  • Since almost the beginning of the pandemic, the Dempsey Community Centre has operated exclusively as a temporary homeless shelter for women. As such, the Russell Gardens and Russell Manor Ottawa Community Housing communities— including a seniors’ building—has no local access to recreational programming. 
  • The Christie Lake Kids recreation and skills-building programs, which operated at Dempsey for over 20 years, can no longer use this facility to deliver its program to local youth.
  • The Jim Durrell Recreation Centre and the Heron Road Community Centre served as temporary shelters during the pandemic.  Full recreational programming at these facilities has only just recently returned to full capacity which makes today’s announcement about the Heron Road Community Centre even more frustrating.  

As winter sets in, it’s clear that many vulnerable people in Ottawa need a place to stay and helping them is vitally important. But there’s got to be a better way. Other municipalities are experiencing homelessness and a housing crisis with inadequate support from other levels of government. Why is Ottawa the only municipality in Ontario using recreation centres for temporary emergency housing? Establishing shelters in recreation facilities may help in the short term, but if we’re going to address chronic homelessness with permanent solutions, we must do more. The City as a whole needs to play a role in responding to the crisis.

That’s why I agreed to join the Mayor’s Emergency Shelter Crisis Taskforce announced last week. Ottawa needs to move away from the reliance on temporary shelters and help unhoused people find more permanent accommodations. We must work with other levels of government to build more permanent affordable housing.  And we need to look at housing solutions that work in the long term, and don’t involve disrupting recreational programing.

With today’s announcement regarding the Heron Road Community Centre, my office and I are focused on finding other locations for the recreational programs, seniors’ activities and a family playgroup presently offered at the Centre. I’m pleased to announce that the majority of programming at the Seniors’ Centre will be moving to the Carleton Heights Recreation Centre. Gym users are eligible for refunds or upgrades to access other recreation centers. All participants for registered programming and all rental groups will be contacted directly by Heron Road Community Centre staff to discuss the impacts of this announcement.

Please consult my website and weekly e-newsletter for updates as we continue to find alternative locations for the Centre’s recreational programs.

Emergency shelters and homelessness are complex issues that no single community, agency, emergency measure or level of government can solve alone. Going forward, as a member of the taskforce, I will continue to advocate for fair and reasonable supports and housing measures in Alta Vista and across the City.

If you have questions relating to the Housing Services Branch’s decision to use the Heron Road Community Centre as a temporary shelter, please contact or call 613-552-6759.

For questions about recreation programming please email or call 613-580-2424 ext. 16384.

For questions about the Emergency Shelter Crisis Taskforce, please reach out to me directly at

Marty Carr, Councillor – Ward 18