This week, we received some shocking news from the provincial government, news that impacts every single one of us in downtown Ottawa. We were told that the increase we would be receiving in funding to address homelessness and build much-needed affordable housing is a mere 0.4% ($845,000) of the additional funds being distributed in Ontario. Toronto, a city roughly three times the size of Ottawa, has received an increase that is 60 times that of ours.
What does this mean in real terms in downtown Ottawa? It means that our already-overflowing homeless shelters will have to turn people away.
Right now, there are more than 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in Ottawa and our family shelter system is at 366% capacity, with most families living in inadequate and cramped motel rooms. And we are starting to see more and more homeless encampments pop up in parks, as people feel they have no other choice but to sleep rough.
I didn’t mince words at yesterday’s council meeting. If the province doesn’t give Ottawa its fair share, our city will have an $18 million gap in next year’s budget and will have to cancel 54 planned supportive housing homes that would help our most vulnerable residents. We will also have to re-consider our plan to transition overflow shelters out of community centres and into permanent supportive housing. This funding gap will ground our efforts to end chronic homelessness to a halt.
We need your help. Here’s what you can do:
- Send a letter to Premier Ford and Housing Minster Steve Clark, using this tool created by our friends at the Alliance to End Homelessness.
- Post about this issue on social media using the hashtag #OttawaNeedsMore.
Share this CBC interview that I did with Alan Neal and Kaite Burkholder Harris from the Alliance to End Homelessness.
Thank you for caring for our neighbours experiencing homelessness and helping us fight for more resources to ensure that everyone has a right to shelter in our city. This isn’t over. Together we can make a difference.