The Rolling Stones sang 'Gimme Shelter' in 1969.
In the past week I have been continuing to work through a long list of meetings and discussions with partners, agencies and organizations that help the homeless in our city and address in their way the issues of affordable housing and housing supports.
One of the areas in which our community gets supported is through organizations that run shelters for the homeless (note that many of these organizations do more than just sheltering though). There are several of these and they range from larger to smaller. The City of Ottawa runs two shelters of our own, each addressing the needs of homeless families. Others like the Mission only take in men while agencies like Cornerstone address the needs of women.
Our shelters do amazing work. You need only visit or volunteer at one to see humanity at its most beautiful. While it is true that many of the people there are the people who get avoided on the street, they share some of the most unique stories about their lives and how they came to end up in a shelter for the night. Our shelter workers and volunteers often also have some compelling stories about why they are there.
We are going to be working very hard with our shelter providers in Ottawa over the next several years. Having strong and supported shelters in our community is an integral part of the continuum of care when addressing homelessness; but we also have work to do together.
Ensuring that we have the right mix of energy focussed on sheltering, supportive housing, transitional housing and housing supports will help us speed up the process of cycle breaking for many people who become homeless.
Shelters are a need, but we need more than shelters.
I'd encourage you to learn more about the volunteer opportunities at our shelters in Ottawa. If your time will allow you, consider volunteering yourself or with a friend. You might be surprised at what and who you find at a shelter. Just as important you will talk to everyone you meet about your experiences.
That mix of experiences and insight may also lead you to share your story with others. Please do that.
The more residents we have committed to the idea that things must change - the closer we come to changing our community.