December 12, 2019

Statement on motion to declare an emergency regarding homelessness in Ottawa

The Ottawa Mission strongly supports Councillor Catherine McKenney’s notice of motion brought forward to city council to declare an emergency regarding homelessness in Ottawa, and commends her for bringing this initiative forward in her capacity as Special Liaison for Housing and Homelessness on Ottawa City Council.

Despite the City of Ottawa’s 10-year plan to reduce homelessness, the situation in our community has significantly worsened. This includes:

  • 42% of renters spend more than 30% or more of their pre-tax income to pay the median rent for local housing that is adequate, affordable and suitable.
  • The wait list for affordable housing has increased by 14.8% to over 12,100 households in the past year.
  • Emergency shelter use increased by 6.5% in the past year.
  • In terms of chronic and episodic homelessness, significant increases have occurred amongst single men (10.8% and 5.6%), and amongst families (13.7% for chronic homelessness)
  • Homelessness can happen to anyone, but has a disproportionate burden on very vulnerable populations, including: families; those who identify as Indigenous; those who identify as LGBTQ; women, particularly those fleeing domestic violence; veterans, and others.

When people have access to stable, safe and affordable housing, this allows them to focus on other aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, despite investments by governments, almost 8,000 people are living in emergency shelters in our community, meaning that they are operating at over 100% capacity every night, people are sleeping outside in wintertime, and women fleeing domestic abuse are being turned away from shelters with few other options for safety, often returning to unsafe circumstances.

The urgency and magnitude of this situation highlights the immediate need for collaborative action to find safe, accessible and supportive housing for thousands who need it in Ottawa. The Ottawa Mission urges the municipal, provincial and federal governments to work together now to provide practical, accessible and timely solutions to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.