Friends mourn Ottawa outreach worker killed in stabbing

·2 min read
Flowers and candles surround a photo of Carl Reinboth at a makeshift memorial on Somerset Street W. on Sunday. The 64-year-old outreach worker at the Somerset West Community Health Centre was fatally stabbed nearby two days earlier. (Ryan Patrick Jones/CBC - image credit)
Flowers and candles surround a photo of Carl Reinboth at a makeshift memorial on Somerset Street W. on Sunday. The 64-year-old outreach worker at the Somerset West Community Health Centre was fatally stabbed nearby two days earlier. (Ryan Patrick Jones/CBC - image credit)

Friends and co-workers of an Ottawa outreach worker killed in a stabbing Friday morning are reeling in the wake of his death, and say their community will never be the same.

Carl Reinboth, 64, died after being stabbed on Somerset Street W. in Ottawa's Chinatown neighbourhood. A 20-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in his death.

The same suspect is charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder in connection with a second stabbing at a nearby gas station a short time later.

Reinboth was an outreach worker with the needle exchange and safer inhalation program (NESI) at the Somerset West Community Health Centre.

"I don't know how to describe how we're going to power through without him," said Arwen McKechnie, the team lead for NESI and a friend of Reinboth's for nine years.

'Meant so much to so many'

McKechnie described Reinboth as someone who would take clients to hospital and advocate on their behalf for justice, health care and housing.

"If somebody was having a bad day, he would kind of just drape an arm around them [and] say, 'Cool down, mate. We're gonna go for smoke,'" McKenchie recalled.

"The value that that had for people, the fact that he was able to take that moment with them, and, you know, listen to what they were saying, give them a chance to kind of vent and process, meant so much to so many people."

Difficult time for staff, clients

In an online video from the Ottawa Harm Reduction Network, Reinboth can be heard describing how he quit using drugs in 1992. "It's a dream to work there," he said about the Somerset West Community Health Centre.

McKechnie said Reinboth's death comes at an especially difficult time for staff, who were already at the "intersection of three crises," namely COVID-19, the opioid epidemic and Ottawa's severe housing shortage.

A pop-up memorial has been erected near the centre, and McKechnie said the way clients have been taking care of it is a sign of what Reinboth meant to them.

"Carl showed up every day for the people he cared about and for the community that he worked with, and he loved it," she said.

"The world is a hard place right now and people are struggling, all people are struggling. But the things that we care about, we have to show up for them all day, every day, as much as we can."