DEPUTATION TO COMMUNITY AND PROTECTIVE SERVICES COMMITTEE
My name is Emilie Hayes, the interim Executive Director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa. The Alliance is a member-driven coalition of local organizations and individuals collaborating and advocating to prevent and end homelessness in Ottawa.
We know that livable cities are the foundation for a strong resilientcommunity, sustainable economy and a place where all people can thrive.
Ottawa is experiencing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis:
The total number of people using an overnight emergency shelter in Ottawa increased 6.5% in 2018 to a record high of almost 8000 unique individuals.
Although Housing First programs have helped to house 882 individuals since April 2015, and 225 have graduated off the program, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness remains almost unchanged and has become significantly worse for families. There has been a steady upward increase in family homelessness over the past five years. In 2018, there were over 1000 families, comprising of over 3600 individual family members who experienced homelessness, representing a 10.6% increase from 2017.
Homelessness for single men has increased by 1.4% and for women by 5.5% and at a greater rate than the overall population increase in Ottawa.
There were over 12,000 applicants on the centralized waiting list for social housing in 2018, a 14.8% increase and an all-time high.
If we are serious about meeting our commitment to bringing an end to chronic homelessness, we cannot simply manage the problem. While we are encouraged to see a $15M investment in affordable housing once again in the draft 2020 budget, the troubling increase in homelessness in our community signals that more needs to be done.
The Alliance encourages the City to take a strong, action-oriented approach to dealing with housing and homelessness in the 2020 City budget by allocating the resources necessary to effectively meet the targets assigned to the next five years of our 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan and increasing investments in a prevention-based approach to ending homelessness.
We also acknowledge the City’s expansion of the number of housing allowances and rent supplements. We urge the City to continue with these critical investments, and to also explore additional strategies to address the housing crisis such as the purchase of existing affordable housing stock, redevelopment of social housing and other innovative housing solutions.
However, the Alliance recognizes that the City cannot solve the housing and homelessness crisis alone. We call on the City to vigorously pursue current opportunities for federal and provincial funding for new development using the non-profit and private sectors to build a range of mixed-income and mixed-use affordable rental housing. We also urge the City to work with the federal and provincial governments to ensure non-profit and co-operative housing providers can maintain and repair the current affordable housing stock when federal Operating Agreements expire.
Housing is more than just a roof over one’s head. Appropriate and affordable housing makes our city and community a welcoming place to live, work and start a business. In a city, such as Ottawa, one of the wealthiest cities in Canada, there is no need for homelessness and housing insecurity to be continuing and growing at the current rates. Investments are critical to addressing the ongoing needs.
Affordable housing is an important investment in our city, in our communities, and in the people of Ottawa – both economically and socially. We can make a difference in our city to create a more prosperous, inclusive Ottawa – where everyone has an appropriate and affordable home.
We thank members of the Community and Protective Services Committee for hearing our comments on the draft 2020 Budget and look forward to working together to prevent and end homelessness in Ottawa.