The City has said it will end homelessness in Ottawa by 2023: Is the goal too ambitious?
It’s certainly an ambitious goal, but it’s an important one that we are well on our way to achieving.
In recent years, the City of Ottawa has shown leadership on the issue of homelessness, and put many measures in place that generate positive impact for some of the city’s most vulnerable.
If we continue to work together, there is no doubt Ottawa can end homelessness by 2023.
So what’s working well?
The measure that has made the greatest difference so far is the City’s full adoption of “Housing First” methodology – it is an evidence-based approach that rests on providing people with a real home as the very first step in recovering from homelessness, but also extending the services and supports an individual needs to permanently maintain a life beyond our emergency shelters.
In a similar vein, we are also very encouraged to see the City’s participation in the development of “A Way Home Community Planning Framework” which puts special emphasis on the needs of youth. Youth homelessness “is different from adult homelessness, both in the way that it starts, and the solutions to end it”.
Youth who experience homelessness require interventions tailored to their age and level of development. The City’s involvement in this community planning process signals a clear understanding that one of the best ways to end homelessness in Ottawa is to prevent our young people from ending up on the streets in the first place.
We also think it’s important to acknowledge that the City has set an important example by breaking down its own internal silos. The 10 year plan the City is currently following is a consolidation of three separate pre-existing plans that all held some responsibilities for housing and homelessness but the pieces didn’t always fit together. The City also created an Interdepartmental Committee which is yet another way they are demonstrating that solving the issues of Housing and Homelessness cannot be accomplished through any one perspective or approach. It gives the City tremendous credibility in encouraging the many community stakeholders, across multiple sectors, who must work together if we hope to achieve lasting results.
Last but not least, I would say the City is making concrete promises and keeping them. From Mayor Watson’s campaign commitments to put more funds in the budget for housing and homelessness issues, to his appointment of a member of Council as Senior Liaison, to lending our City’s voice to those of other municipal leaders at the Provincial and Federal level – these measures demonstrate a deep understanding for the kind of leadership, investment and collaboration which Ottawa will require in order to create lasting solutions.
What else should Ottawa be doing to end homelessness?
So what’s next?
At United Way Ottawa, we believe our city has all the elements necessary to make better, quicker progress in addressing the issues of affordable housing and homelessness. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity Councillor Taylor has provided to submit ideas to how we can continue to make more real and lasting progress. If we continue to work, innovate and problem-solve together, we will see a day when everyone in Ottawa has a place to call home.
What is United Way Ottawa doing about homelessness?
We know that each year, more than 1,400 young people in Ottawa have no place to call home.
So if we could stop homelessness from taking root in the first place – what would we do? We can intervene before homelessness becomes a way of life.
This is why United Way Ottawa invests in programs that focus first on getting youth into safe housing, and then providing them access to supports to deal with things like abuse, addiction, and mental health issues that often led them to the streets in the first place.
Senior Advisor, Public Affairs, United Way Ottawa