Serving the Community Through the OMST

Serving The Community Through The Outreach & Mobile Services Team

By Kristine Haines-Chiarello

February 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from the City of Ottawa below. 

Honouring Statement

Ottawa is built on un-ceded Anishinaabe Algonquin territory. The people of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation have lived on this territory for millennia. Their culture and presence have nurtured and continue to nurture this land. The City of Ottawa honours the peoples and land of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. The City of Ottawa honours all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and their valuable past and present contributions to this land. We are humbled by the hospitality of our Host Nation and grateful for their stewardship of this beautiful land we live on which encourages us to bring our whole selves to work in the service of others. 

Outreach Resource CentreBackground

With the increasing impacts of the pandemic on mental health, the growing digital divide and other new or exacerbated existing inequities, a small team of Employment and Social Services staff came together to challenge the status quo and break down barriers to essential human services at a time when people needed them the most. In 2021, the Outreach and Mobile Services Team (OMST) initiated its first outreach service to individuals and families accessing the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 Physical Distancing and Respite Centres.  

Focused on serving residents who were at greater risk of being left behind; those living in poverty, experiencing homelessness, or precariously housed, staff shifted from a traditional service delivery approach to an outreach and mobile services model to bring services directly into the community.

Innovation in Action

The OMST directly engage with individuals and families where and when they need them most. It is person-centered service delivery that streamlines access to employment, financial, and childcare programs and services, and puts the person at the centre of every interaction. Grounded in relationship and empowerment, financial benefits are no longer the main event, but tools in the toolbox.

  • Individuals and families are at the centre of decisions, seen as the experts, alongside professionals, and empowered by choice.
  • Staff are trusted as skilled professionals, to make decisions in concert with the people they are serving. 
  • Community resources are seen as partners and an extension of our collective commitment to serving our common clients.

The OMST focuses on fostering a safe, trusting, respectful and inclusive environment and listening to better understand the diverse needs of the individual. As one of the OMST case workers stated, we are "moving away from a business-like or statistic-driven relationship, to a more humanistic approach." It is not only about the presenting need but about proactively wrapping services around the individual. The Team has the flexibility to assist people with system navigation, referrals, and warm transfers to ensure individuals and families get the right services at the right time. It is not uncommon for the OMST to meet people at banks and in food bank lines, collaborate with an airline to assist a client to return home or bring Chromebooks to a shelter to assist people with applications for assistance. 

Teamwork By working together across programs and services, the OMST leverages relationships to build a strong network to deliver coordinated service delivery. This includes regular communication, proactive information sharing and integrated case management with Housing Services, Children’s Services and vital community services to get people the support they need.

"The OMST gives ESS caseworkers the ability to directly collaborate with our most vulnerable, at-risk clients, as well as community partners to provide wrap-around services and direct support. The most rewarding part so far is being able to reach out to clients and keep them from falling completely through the widening gaps of Ontario’s social safety net." - OMST Case Worker.

It’s about making sure no one is left behind, especially people who are facing the greatest systemic barriers.

Success & Growth

In 2021, An evaluation of the OMST service approach was conducted with clients, partners, and staff. The results? The OMST successfully achieved its objectives: increased timely access to more services; increased staff’s connection to clients and community resources; and enhanced partnerships and collaboration within the community. With more than 2200 connections made with residents since 2021, the OMST continues to expand, providing outreach services alongside 14 partners, in physical distancing centres, shelters, day programs, community centres and food banks, and through collaboration with Ottawa Public Health.

The OMST demonstrates that it is possible to make gains in human services integration through responsive and person-centric services. The OMST models a human-centered approach and an unwavering commitment to working together across programs and services to break down barriers for our clients. This is stability supports: empowering people to achieve the outcomes that matter most to them.

About the Author

Kristine Haines-Chiarello is a Manager with Employment and Social Services in the Community and Social Services Department. Kristine is passionate about person-centred service, relationship development and breaking down barriers to support clients in achieving their goals. Through this lens, along with her strategic and innovative thinking, she recently led the department’s Humans Services Integration project to provide a roadmap for a future service delivery system within the City of Ottawa.  

Although written by Kristine, seen taking this selfie, it is the staff of the OMST that are the true authors of this knowledge exchange.

Blog categories: Housing, Homelessness, Community Services, Ontario Works, Mental Health, COVID19, Pandemic, City Of Ottawa,