Over the past four years, volunteers and staff at the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA)’s Foot Patrol service centre have struggled to support students without a safe place to stay in the evenings. Foot Patrol’s safe walk service enabled us to ensure that anyone who felt unsafe in the evenings would have company walking home, but was unable to offer that safe space to rest itself.

This Summer 2021, in partnership with the CUSA Food Centre, Foot Patrol staff developed the Unified Support Centre (USC) by amalgamating the Food Centre and Foot Patrol service centres to create a long-term, sustainable, student support-oriented service at CUSA. Aware that a service-delivery gap existed, the USC’s founders built the space with the goal of providing three pillars of student support. The first pillar consisted of food and essentials support in addition to food-related events, and was integrated into the USC by adapting and building on existing Food Centre procedures. The second pillar, consisting of safety-related services with a focus on evening support, was implemented by integrating Foot Patrol’s services. Our vision for the third pillar is an open, no-questions-asked, same-evening intake housing support service exclusively for Carleton University students.

Ottawa’s homeless shelter system is overcrowded and fragmented, and longer term supports often take days to access. Existing homeless shelters are not ideal for students attempting to maintain their studies while seeking support to resolve their situation. As a result, students lacking a safe space to rest often attempt to discreetly sleep in an unpatrolled corner of campus or risk returning to an unsafe environment.

The Unified Support Centre (USC) intends to work with on and off campus partners to develop a space that offers students a short-term place to sleep overnight without questions or judgement while a long-term solution to their situation is found. USC volunteers and staff will be available to offer advice for accessing additional on and off-campus support and resources to interested service users.

With your support, the USC intends to research and develop a housing support service over the Winter and Summer 2022 semesters, with the goal of launching a service pilot during the Fall 2022 semester. Usage data and operational knowledge will be used to campaign for sustainable funding for the services’ long-term operation.

Funds will be used to develop and execute a semester-long housing support pilot project from August 22nd, 2022 to December 23rd, 2022. Expenses will include:

  • Space-related fees, such as rent for the housing support services’ location
  • Insurance and liability related costs
  • Purchase of service-oriented supplies, including
    • Bed Frames and mattresses
    • Pillows and sheets
    • Cleaning products, including disinfectant, and laundry related costs
    • Lockers for the overnight storage of belongings
  • Care kits for service users, containing personal hygiene products and snacks
  • Volunteer training (Mental Health First Aid, Standard First Aid and CPR/AED C)