Addressing the city-wide problem of homelessness
This week at City Council several motions came forward to address the city wide problem of homelessness. These motions were for temporary and immediate actions, which are particularly important as the colder weather begins.
Motions were to support Emergency Shelter spaces through the use of bunk beds and temporary shelters (what were referred to as “Sprung Structures”, more like massive tent systems, which can be erected for use in all weather and include space for programming and services).
One motion directed staff to partner with agencies that work with newcomers in order to identify supports and alternative placement options for newcomers to Canada in order to relieve the pressure on the shelter system.
A second motion approved providing additional bed capacity to support single adults, increasing capacity at existing emergency and overflow sites, including Heron Road, and other facilities including Bernard Grandmaître Arena and Dempsey Community Centre. Facilities that currently use cots will see bunks beds in order to help more people have a place to sleep.
Another motion calls for the City to develop a strategy for overnight warming space, and other winter services, to prepare a plan to expand access to warm day-time space for those living unsheltered or at risk of homelessness and that these places operate independent of the City’s extreme heat, cold, and smog plan or emergency responses.
This motion speaks to shelters that are only open from 8pm to 8am, which leaves many people without a place to go during the daytime, and forces them to stay outside during extreme weather and in the cold.
Bay Ward is witnessing unprecedented numbers of persons without a place to live. With skyrocketing rents and long waiting lists for affordable housing, plus bulging shelters many are camping out in parks not only here but across the city. Currently, the city and partners provide 1,800 to 2,000 shelter beds each night. But the current estimate is that roughly 300 people are living on streets, this includes sleeping on benches, sidewalks, or in tents.
When we learn of a resident that has erected a tent we request the Outreach group pay a visit. This group work to establish rapport with residents, and work towards helping them find a housing resource that works for them. There are many reasons why residents might reject help, or offers for shelter spaces, but it mainly comes back to where they feel safe, and their own prior experiences.
For single people, the city is working hard to make room for all. Statistics released by the city of Ottawa show there were more than 700 single adults in the shelter system in January, February and March 2023. That number is forecast to jump to more than 900 this winter.
To assist homeless families we will soon have a new transitional housing facility in our community. It is not the first space for Transitional Housing for families, as one exists currently on Carling Avenue in my neighbourhood. Transitional housing helps people find permanent housing and from the beginning of 2022 to August 2023, 840 families moved from homelessness to long-term housing.
The real solution to homelessness is permanent affordable housing for all, which is why I am proud to be the Chair of Ottawa Community Housing that is dedicated to building more housing with the financial assistance of all levels of government. Everyone deserves a home where they can feel safe and secure. I want to thank everyone for their care and compassion as this situation continues for residents in our ward. I will continue to advocate for short, medium, and long terms goals to reaching the City’s overarching goal that everyone has a home.