Over the past few days you may have heard about the release of the annual Alliance to End Homelessness Report Card in the newspaper or on the radio. Listening to the Report this year I was encouraged to hear the positive way in which the City of Ottawa’s efforts have had an effect on persistent homelessness.
For too long the approach was taken that if the entire problem couldn’t be solved, then we shouldn’t try at all.
Since 2011 the current City Council has made a determined effort to not just tackle homelessness but to eliminate it within 10 years.
I give credit to the Alliance for embarking on this goal a decade ago, and I wish the governments of the day would have supported our community more fully then.
Both the Provincial and Federal governments have assisted the city and community in addressing homelessness; and that help has made a difference. Today however those families and people facing tough times need help more than ever, and we need those levels of government that don’t rely solely on the Ottawa property taxpayer to step up.
Our housing first approach is proven to work and creates savings in other areas of government responsibility – the healthcare system for example being one.
Rental supplements allow people to immediately get into regular rental apartments without having wait for units to be built by the government. They also free up resources so we can build larger family units not available in the private market. Supportive housing programs as well like the YMCA’s very successful ‘Try’ program for women provide immediate housing.
Savings generated for other levels of government however need to be passed back to the community. This enables us to improve more lives and make our community better for everyone. A person without a home is not a partisan issue, it’s a practical one. I suspect there is universal agreement it’s not good to have people homeless in the capital city of Canada, a G8 nation and a model in many ways for the world.
2,463 men, women and children have been assisted with housing support since 2011. This year our focus will be on further reducing the use of shelters and decreasing shelter stays by growing the supported housing capacity in both public and private sectors.
Meeting homeless Ottawa residents young and old, single and with children, I have been moved by how ‘normal’ most of their lives were until tragedy or circumstance derailed them. They had jobs, neighbours, children’s birthday parties and dinners out with friends – until one day, they didn’t.
The City of Ottawa will keep working every day, and we can use your help.
If you have the time consider volunteering with your own family for one of the many agencies supporting our community’s most in need. In the meantime, take a moment to send a note to your MPP or MP telling them you would like them to support your city’s strategy with consistent investment until homelessness in Ottawa moves from the pages of the newspaper to the pages of the history books.
Ottawa City Councillor for Bay Ward
Chair, Community & Protective Services Committee