Covid-19 Six Month Update

Sep 10, 2020
Employment

If the past six months have taught us anything, it’s that community gives us the strength to carry on during hard times. Neighbours finding creative ways to support neighbours, even though they can’t physically be there for them. This year has been a tough one, but together we’re getting through this with stronger connections to each other and working hard to make our communities more inclusive for everyone. 

In March, Causeway made the difficult decision to temporarily close two of our social businesses, Krackers Katering and Cycle Salvation, our Wellness Centre, and our doors to the public. This was done under the advice of public health officials to protect our clients and staff. There were many unknowns then and we, like many others, were worried about the lasting effects of the pandemic on our clients who are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. But we persevered. We found creative ways to continue offering our services safely to continue supporting our clients through this challenging time.

Since then, Krackers Katering and Cycle Salvation have opened for business, and our Wellness Centre re-opened its doors on September 1. Causeway still remains closed to the public offering remote services to clients and scheduling in-person meetings when necessary.

Causeway’s main priority is our clients. With our clients being some of the most impacted by the pandemic, we had to make sure they received the employment and mental health support they needed.

Social Businesses

Many Causeway clients are employed in our social businesses and rely on that employment for income. When we had to temporarily close our social businesses, our clients lost income because they were unable to work. Through the generosity of Causeway donors, we provided financial support to our clients until government supports kicked in.

Our social business, Good Nature Groundskeeping, was not affected by the pandemic because all employees could maintain safe distances from one another as they worked. To ensure that clients employed in GNG had a safe and reliable way to get to work, we purchased bicycles from Cycle Salvation. 

The Good Nature Groundskeeping crew with their new bikes, provided by Cycle Salvation.

Cycle Salvation re-opened in late April, busily working on refurbishing bikes to prepare for the cycling season. There are still many reliable bikes available to purchase from their shop, and they are welcoming donations of old bikes. Learn more about how to buy a refurbished bike or donate your old bike by visiting their website.

Krackers Katering was the most affected by Covid-19. They were only able to re-open in August and are currently working hard to get back on their feet. They have lost a large portion of revenue for the year and will struggle to employ the same number of clients they have in the past. Over the four months they were closed, Causeway worked hard to find employment opportunities for the clients who were employed at Krackers. 

Thanks to a partnership with Parkdale Food Centre, a client employed by Krackers Katering was able to work as a driver delivering food from Parkdale Food Centre three times a week. By working together, Causeway supported Parkdale Food Centre in delivering food baskets to people in need across Ottawa. This was and continues to be especially important given the rise in food insecurity and the pandemic’s economic impact on low-income people.

With the support of the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 Social Service Relief Funding, Causeway set up a food hamper program for clients. The program lasted about five weeks and was ready to serve 50-70 families and individuals a week. Clients could choose which items each week they would like in their hamper, allowing for personal taste preferences and any dietary or health restrictions. Each hamper also contained a gift voucher to their desired local grocery store, allowing them to buy specific items not included. The hamper program also enabled six Krackers Katering employees to work. They would create meals, pack the hampers and deliver them to the clients’ homes.

“I think what stood out is how we got to know each client personally as we were talking to them each week for five weeks. We heard about successes and failures in their lives, their worries with the pandemic, and concerns about food, money, and housing. I think clients like to check in each week and [have that] human contact.”

– Hilary Leavens, Social Enterprise Manager – Krackers Katering

Currently, Krackers Katering is partnered with Parkdale Food Centre’s Cooking for a Cause program preparing 250 meals a week. Cooking for a Cause includes several different partners that make delicious and healthy take-home food for outreach workers to deliver to those impacted by food insecurity. Cooking for a Causeway relies on donations to sustain the program. If you would like to make a donation to Parkdale Food Centre’s program, use this link.

Want to order some delicious food by Krackers Katering? Head on over to their website for more information.

Employment Programs

Speaking of food insecurity, many of the clients we serve in our employment programs were struggling to buy food. Thanks to Causeway donors’ support, we were able to purchase grocery store gift cards to clients needing a little extra help to buy food or other essentials. 

On March 19, all of our programs and services were delivered remotely. We would hold phone meetings, and Zoom calls with clients – which, as it turns out, helped build clients’ interview skills.

Since April, Causeway has seen 70 new clients, with  32 clients having found jobs. Both numbers fall far below last year’s numbers, but with these challenging times, we’re celebrating every victory. 

After receiving the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 Social Service Relief Funding, which also enabled us to purchase PPE, we could offer some in-person services as needed. 

Thanks to the Emergency Community Support Fund, administered by the Ottawa Community Foundation, we improved our ability to work virtually with clients. We received funding to purchase laptops and webcams for staff to work remotely and for clients to attend virtual job interviews. We also purchased ten refurbished laptops for our Solutions for Youth Program, which is now administered entirely online.

Wellness Program

While the Wellness Centre was closed, our Wellness Coordinator, Christopher, took it upon himself to call his clients to check-in.

What he found was amazing. Even though clients weren’t in the Wellness Gym, the consistent routine of working out in the months and years before helped motivate them to keep up working out at home. 

In an email to Christopher, one client wrote: “I am thankful that Christopher could keep me motivated. It helped me continue over the pandemic to stay active.”

In July, Christopher was able to organize walks with clients. Many clients had already established their routines, but some took him up on the offer. He would go for short walks with them and encourage them to stay active with their routines. 

On September 1, the Wellness Gym re-opened. For a good portion of August, Christopher and Larry, Causeway’s secondary personal trainer, worked on the logistics of re-opening the gym. They re-arranged the workout machines, worked on a schedule and figured out the safest way for clients to return to the gym. 

“I’m really excited [for the gym to re-open]! It’s been bizarre the past four months, not with clients. To be honest, I’m a little nervous. It’s a big change to go from phone calls to people coming in. But everyone is excited to get back into a routine!”

Christopher Kelly, Wellness Coordinator

At this time, there are no walk-ins at the gym. Clients interested in using the Wellness Gym’s services should contact Christopher directly or send an email to Intake to set up an appointment. Each session will start on the hour and last for 45 minutes. Following each session, Causeway’s cleaning crew will sanitize all machines before the next appointment.

Looking ahead 

Despite all the ups and downs, we’re incredibly grateful for all we’ve been able to accomplish, thanks to the community’s generosity. Together we’ve been able to support individuals while they search for jobs, support them through their struggles with isolation and anxiety, and ensure that clients have access to healthy food. 

But we’re not out of the woods yet. 

With fewer jobs and a higher unemployment rate, we expect more people to come to Causeway for support in getting back to work or searching for new employment opportunities. If you’re able, please consider donating to help support our clients. As we continue implementing measures to ensure everyone is still receiving all the support they require, we need all the help we can get.

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