The last week has been unlike any other in Ottawa. We are living in a city under siege, by a group of people who have shown deep disrespect for the people living here in serious and increasingly violent ways.
The Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa represents 70 organizations in Ottawa that support people who experience homelessness. Alliance member organizations have released statements expressing the serious impact that this occupation has had on their communities, staff, and the people they support. Today, we call for an immediate and peaceful end to the occupation.
Our unhoused neighbours are in deep distress from the occupation in our streets. One of the challenges of experiencing homelessness is the lack of public space available to a person. Oftentimes, people sleeping on the streets or staying at shelters spend their days walking, from service to service, trying to access basic needs. Having to deal with the occupation as they try to go about their lives has been exhausting, and has made daily life even more challenging.
While residents living in homes in the areas affected are being harassed, scared to leave their buildings for fear of being attacked, and dealing with the stress of constant noise and honking, it is that much more distressing for people with literally nowhere to go.
Even under typical circumstances, people experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of violence, simply due to not having the protection of a home. Right now that danger is one of the highest it has ever been in Ottawa. Add to that the overrepresentation of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, Black, and other racialized individuals, as well as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and the risk of violence to populations experiencing homelessness increases even further. The heightened threat of violence has not only re-traumatized people, but also caused hospitalizations, and people have been unable to access critical services for the most basic of needs.
This week, the City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency due to the occupation. We have been living in an additional crisis for the last two years, as City Council declared a housing and homelessness emergency in January 2020. Add to that two years of a pandemic and overdose epidemic and the most vulnerable people in our communities are demoralized and exhausted.
The trauma that our unhoused neighbours are experiencing cannot be overstated. For those without a home, there is not only no rest from this convoy, there is not even the buffer of four walls. Our leaders at every level of government owe it to the most vulnerable among us, and the people working every day fighting for them, to end this occupation.