OTTAWA, ON - In January, Ottawa declared a homelessness emergency. Despite the city’s ten-year plan to end homelessness, homelessness has moved beyond a crisis to levels never seen before. Last year, almost 8,000 people stayed in emergency shelters, which have been operating at over 100% capacity for years.
While many factors lead people to become homeless, lack of affordable housing is key. While governments at every level have made investments in affordable housing, it’s simply not enough to meet this overwhelming need.
The homelessness emergency in Ottawa has been significantly amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. While all homelessness shelters have rapidly adapted to the challenges imposed by COVID-19, overcapacity issues make physical distancing especially challenging. If we do not act immediately to relieve overcapacity by finding safe spaces for people who are homeless, COVID-19 could spread throughout the shelter system.
The impact of COVID-19 has left many hotels and motels empty throughout our city. Purchasing them would reduce overcapacity issues within the shelter system and reduce the risk of COVID-19 amongst the homeless population.
But the City can’t do this alone. The ability of the City of Ottawa to raise funds is limited, and COVID-19 has significantly impacted the city’s finances. Without immediate additional federal funding to protect those who are homeless, we could experience a COVID-19 outbreak within the shelter system that has the potential to overwhelm our local healthcare system.
We must also plan for the long term. We can protect the most vulnerable people in our community from the spread of COVID-19 and also to get desperately needed affordable housing stock in Ottawa by converting these hotels to permanent affordable housing stock.
We have seen the tragic consequences of this virus in long-term care facilities. Governments must work together to act quickly to immediately procure additional space for people experiencing homelessness to reduce the risk of COVID-19 while also ensuring that every person in our community has a safe place to stay, both now and for the future.
To show your support, please visit https://www.housingemergencyottawa.ca to send a letter to your elected officials. To date, over 900 letters have been sent.
From 1-4PM on Wednesday April 29th we are encouraging everyone who supports the campaign to post one reason why they support the campaign on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #hotels2homes