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A Lowertown recreation centre is blocking a local food bank from moving in to a neighbouring building

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In the heart of Lowertown, a food bank faces the uphill battle of meeting soaring demand while grappling with space constraints. Despite the promise of a new facility, access hurdles stand in the way.

Catherine Dubois has dedicated a year to volunteering at the Lowertown Food Bank on Beausoleil Street. She's worried about the cramped conditions.

"It's clearly too small, it's clearly overwhelmed by all of the food that has come here," said Dubois.

The Lowertown Food Bank is unable to expand services due to space limitations.

"The services that we would like to see in our community can't be offered because the food bank, at the present time, it takes over the whole space," says Dubois. "So we can't offer homework clubs, for example. We can't offer groups for early years for the little ones in our community."

Originally never intended as a food bank location, the Lowertown Community Centre had no choice but to address the overwhelming demand for food.

The City has tried to respond to the great need and a motion was adopted by City Council in October and November 2023, advocating moving the food bank to the municipal building at 40 Cobourg St.

Patro d'Ottawa Rec Centre. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)

"It's been really disheartening to see the great increase in demand for the services in the food bank. But it's also meant that unfortunately, the space here, which was inappropriate for a food bank at the beginning, is now bursting at the seams," says Matt Beutel, Executive Director of the Lowertown Community Resource Centre. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to access that (Coburg Street) space because a mobility access ramp has been denied to us."

The reluctance to share access to the ramp, owned by the adjacent recreation center, is a mystery for many.

Patro d'Ottawa Rec Centre ramp. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)

The councillor for the area is hoping an agreement can be made after years of being denied access.

"You know, something like a food bank is not really, let's just say, a place to kind of play these games where you're saying this side is mine, that side is yours. We really need to come together as a community and I'm really hoping that we can broker some sort of arrangement so people can have food in their bellies. At the end of the day, that's all that matters," said Rideau-Vanier Ward Coun. Stéphanie Plante.

The community centre says the new facilities would make it easier to serve thousands more families every year. But many of their clients have mobility issues. Without the ramp, there is no way to operate here.

"It's hard to understand why access to a ramp is the only stumbling block for this high-needs community to have what it deserves," said Beutel.

Right now, the Lowertown Food Bank is forced to turn down food donations because they have nowhere to store it and that means turning away families in need.

"We'd just like an adequate space for all of these folks that are coming because I think, at the very least, they deserve to have this service which is so essential to their well-being," said Dubois.

CTV News reached out to the recreation centre but did not hear back. 

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