As we close the door on 2021, I can’t help but stop and reflect on the strength of Cornerstone’s Community. This past year was filled with unprecedented pressures but together, we found the strength to move on.
We moved our shelter twice this year, adapted our programs and services to meet the increased needs of women and gender-diverse individuals experiencing homelessness, and adjusted to lockdowns and outbreaks. We could not have gotten through these times without the strength of our communities including residents of Cornerstone, the incredible staffing team, our partnership with the City of Ottawa, community groups and partners, and donors – each of you never wavered in your commitment to give hope, healing and housing.
2021 taught us that moving into the next year we must prioritize healing and recovery from the pandemic. We have started this ground work in 2021 as we received a grant to launch a Harm Reduction Committee to work on a policy and reduce barriers to services, with the support from a grant we were able to prioritize Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training for staff, volunteers and residents, and we did numerous consultations with community partners, residents, donors, staff, funders, and volunteers to develop our new Strategic Framework. We are excited to launch our 2022-2025 Strategic Framework – this framework was created by and for the Cornerstone Community. Over the next year we will continue to focus on harm reduction, EDI, prioritizing wellness, and mental health through a gendered intersectional lens and with purpose and consultation.
In our journey of healing and recovery we will continue to leverage the strength of our community and prioritize housing for women and gender-diverse people. We are excited to announce that Cornerstone Housing for Women has successfully purchased a new building that will provide 46 women with a home of their own. Together, we are the cornerstone of hope, healing and housing for many women and gender-diverse people in Ottawa.
Cornerstone embarked on a six month strategic planning process in the fall of 2021. The process was co-designed with the Strategic Planning Working Group to ensure effective engagement and to position the organization for strategic decision-making.
The result is a Strategic Framework with a refined vision, mission and principles and strategic priorities and outcomes to guide our work for the next three years. Action planning is now underway!
The pandemic has not been easy for anyone. Especially, for those in our sector struggling to manage three crises at once, amongst a rise in people struggling with their mental wellness. We worked collaboratively to change and adapt our services for women accessing our programs and services.
Together, throught it all we’ve found ways to heal, connect and hope. YOU have been a huge part in our journey during this pandemic. Thank you for always being by our side.
Together, we got through unprecedented pressures on our shelter system and the women we support. It was the community collaboration, strong partnerships, and compassion that got our shelter through multiple moves, the outbreaks, and the increase in shelter capacity.There has been significant gendered impacts from the pandemic on women.
The dawn of 2021, we were still operating the emergency shelter out of our temporary location in a University of Ottawa residence on Friel St. When the University required the building back, we packed up our operation and moved to another temporary location in June of 2021. We settled into our next temporary shelter in Alta Vista at a Community Centre, which posed it’s own obstacles.
We could not have executed this additional move without the assistance of our partners, such as the City of Ottawa, and Shelter Movers.
In 2021, Cornerstone saw a sharp rise in overdoses, staff went from reversing an overdose maybe every six months to at least once a week. The pandemic resulted in a more toxic drug supply on the streets of Ottawa. Cornerstone staff have never seen or dealt with anything like this before.
Our staff were quick to pivot and support people using substances and other residents. There was a gap in our services that needed to be filled.
Thankfully, our community partners and experts in Harm Reduction stepped in to support staff and residents. A Harm Reduction Committee was created with staff, residents and Ottawa Inner City Health helped us to get the committee off the ground, help us work on a policy and programming. Cornerstone also created mandatory nalaxone training, which was provided by Respect RX and OICH. We could not have started this work without our community partners and funders.
Cornerstone is thrilled to announce that we have acquired our fifth supportive housing residence for women and gender-diverse people over the age of 18 in Ottawa.
Our path of healing and recovery includes being a part of the solution to our housing crisis.
We have purchased 44 Eccles, which will become home to 46 women and gender-diverse individuals. Plus, 15 of the rooms will be fully accessible, there will be a backyard for reprieve, a community space and kitchen, but most of all this will be someone’s home.
It all starts with a home.
“I really like it here. I feel a part of a community here and the staff and residents have been very supportive of paintings. Staying at both of the Cornerstone shelters were tough, especially during COVID-19. I’ve struggled with my mental health and have always found art to be therapeautic. I have done all kinds of art, but my interest in painting started when I was a kid. I did one mural at O’Connor and painted the front glass at the Friel Shelter. I outlined some sketches for residents during my time at friel and many women at the shelter coloured in the sketches to get people’s minds off of whatever stresses were going on for them.
My most recent mural at Princeton was sparked by Barb, the cultural worker from Minwaashin Lodge who talked to me about the creation story. I’m not indigenous, but was more than happy to do this mural with that inspiration and the support of the staff and residents.
...Doing painting again, is like coming home.
I’d like to continue to refine my skill and hope to do murals as a vocation down the road.”
In 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted Cornerstone’s workforce. There were staffing shortages across the sector. To minimize the spread of COVID-19, workers who were suspected to have COVID-19 or who tested positive were required to isolate at home, this resulted in staffing shortages across all programs. Frontline Team members and managers, stepped in to fill gaps in our schedule and our Human Resources team worked tirelessly to increase staffing levels.
We are so thankful to all our frontline workers, who demonstrated resiliency by continuing to provide excellent care to our service-users despite these obstacles. Frontline workers showed immense creativity and innovation, finding new ways to connect with each other and service-users and to deliver programs.
Through this experience we have grown stronger as a team which gives us hope for a future focused on recovery and enhancing workplace wellness.
We couldn’t thank the Ottawa Senators enough for their generous donation of over 20 turkeys to make thanksgiving dinner extra deicious!
This went a long way to helping us feed over 200 women a nutritious meal.
A BIG thank you to Chris from Ionic Lodge 526 and Guy from the Rotary Club of Kanata for delivering 35 hoiday gift bags for residents in our supportive housing.
These gift bags mean a lot to women who may not receive another gift.
As we look back on the roller coaster that was 2021, my thoughts go instantly to the resilience of our Cornerstone residents, staff and volunteers who were able to pivot and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic.
I got married when I was pretty young and was with him for nearly two decades. However, it did not end well. He kicked me out of our place and that’s how I ended up living at a couple of women’s shelters downtown Ottawa for nearly a year – and ended up at Cornerstone’s emergency shelter.
Although we were unable to open many of our resident focused volunteer services, we still recorded hundreds of hours of volunteer service from our Board of Directors, Young Professionals Advisory Board, Spiritual Care Team, Resource Development volunteers and others! We were thankful for the brief moments in 2021 that we could have volunteers in, even if it was only for a short time.
The hope for 2022 is one of recovery and re-building our volunteer program. We hope we are able to welcome back volunteers who have been deeply missed during the pandemic!
SOLD OUT for a third year in a row and our second year hosting it virtually. YOU helped us raise over $100,000! A special thank you to our sponsors for making this night a success.
SAVE THE DATE: OCTOBER 1, 2022
CNOY 2021 was our second time doing the WALK and we could not have raised over $100,000 without YOU, our captains, walkers, donors and sponsors!
SAVE THE DATE: FEBRUARY 25, 2023
Last year third-party, community events raised more than $36,000 for women experiencing homelessness. Community events go a long way to supporting our shelter and housing residences. Last year our community raised money from golf tournaments, cleaning up our city, hosting a concert, having a cash box at their store and more. We are so grateful!
September 30, 2021 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
September 30th is also Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenousled grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived residential schools and remembers those who did not.
We wear orange to raise awareness of the very tragic legacy of residential schools, the many lives that were taken, and to honour the thousands of Survivors
We see first hand the intergenerational trauma, the legacy of residential schools and colonialism. We are dedicated to reconciliation and healing.
Cornerstone remains committed to growing our strengthening our partnerships with Indigenous led organizations, such as Minwaashin Lodge who runs our Indigenous and Cultural Services program out of our Princeton residence.