An Ottawa hockey arena has undergone a complete transformation, and it’s almost unrecognizable! To protect some of the city’s most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic, a local recreation centre has been converted into a homeless shelter. The aim is to provide a safe space for Ottawa’s homeless men, while still allowing them to practice social distancing.

If you’ve ever been inside the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre, you probably won’t recognize it anymore!

The local hockey arena, located on Walkley Road, has been transformed into a homeless shelter, and it has been designed to follow safe social and physical distancing protocol.

The new shelter has enough beds to accommodate up to 140 male clients, all of whom will be aged over 18.

The area was redesigned as many of the city’s downtown shelters have reached capacity, making it almost impossible to practice safe social distancing, in accordance with advice from health officials.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson explained, “This facility will alleviate overflow for Ottawa’s local men’s shelter system - allowing for more critical support & appropriate physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In response to one comment on Twitter, Mayor Watson also added that 140 hotel rooms in the city have also been leased out to the city's most vulnerable.

According to CBC News, the men at the shelter will be served three meals a day, and will be able to come and go from the facility as they please.

There will be access to computers with the internet, and downtown transportation will also be introduced this weekend.

"These are individuals who are not as high-needs as some of the other people in the shelter system, so they're a little more independent, but they need a roof over their heads," Watson explained on Wednesday.

The converted arena, which is being funded by the City of Ottawa and the province, has been revealed just days after homeless charities called for the city to take stronger measures to protect the vulnerable during the pandemic.

Last week, the Alliance to End Homelessness urged the city to confront two of Ottawa’s biggest crises, people without safe shelter, and an increasing number of empty hotels. 

For now, it’s something that the city is considering.

The city also has plans to house homeless and vulnerable women, as well as their children, during the pandemic.

However, further plans and locations will not be released to the public, as some of the women could be fleeing domestic violence.

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