January 03, 2013

When Shelter is Not Enough

There are many reasons people walk through the front door of The Ottawa Mission. In the majority of cases, a homeless shelter is usually the last resort for someone in crisis. Some people may only need to stay a few days but there are others who stay much longer – sometimes years. These are people who are called “chronically homeless”.

I’ve been part of a group, along with representatives from other local shelters and the City of Ottawa’s Housing Branch, working on solutions to end ‘chronic homelessness’ in our community.
Our focus has turned to people in shelters who are suffering from mental illness.   For them life is a constant struggle. Living in cramped dorm rooms month after month, even eating with people they don’t know in a crowded dining room can be frightening – but they have no alternative.

Right now, there are 245 people living in shelters across the capital who have been identified as chronically homeless.  The average length of stay for this group is 6.1 years.  Of these, many suffer from mental illness.  Over 50 chronically homeless people are at The Ottawa Mission.  Adam is one of them.  He is a gentle man who has multiple mental and life-skill issues which prevent him from living on his own.  He’s been living at The Mission for 15 years.

Many people like Adam would fit into a housing situation that offers a private room, but includes common areas for skills development and group activities and on-site staff.  With proper support, some might eventually move on to living independently and perhaps, with training, find employment.  The first step is moving out of the shelter.

With your support, The Ottawa Mission, will continue to provide food, shelter and life-changing programs to those in need in our community, and at the same time we will continue to work with the City and our partners to do whatever we can to find a solution for all of the “Adams” in our care.

God bless.