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Shepherds of Good Hope Supports Housing Emergency Motion

On December 11, Council Liaison for Housing and Homelessness and City Councillor for Somerset Ward, Catherine McKenney, tabled a notice of motion to declare a housing emergency in the City of Ottawa. Shepherds of Good Hope fully supports this motion and commends Councillor McKenney for their leadership on this issue.

As an organization with front line staff who work with the homeless and precariously housed around the clock, we see the day to day impacts of this crisis. We have been at or over capacity in our emergency shelter programs for months now. Our beds are full and we are running out of places to put mats on the floor, a situation that affords people very little dignity; yet we cannot in good conscience send them out into the cold.

Due to the lack of affordable housing, including a twelve year-long wait list to obtain it, the situation is getting worse, not better. In 2018, there were almost 8,000 unique individuals using an emergency shelter, a 6.5% increase from the previous year, and an all-time high. The same year, there were over 12,000 individuals on the social housing waiting list, a 14.8% increase and another all-time high.

There are over 90 people sleeping outside every night in Ottawa in the freezing winter temperatures. We cannot count the number of people who are staying in precarious and unsafe housing situations but we know there are many of them, particularly women and children. We have seen a 16.5% increase over the last quarter in the number of women coming to our shelter and we know that many women and children fleeing violence cannot find an appropriate place to stay either in shelters or in the community at large.

Nobody wants to be homeless. So many people end up in shelters or on the streets due to unresolved trauma, mental health challenges and addictions. As a supportive housing provider, we know the difference housing makes to a person’s wellness. To that end, we are working tirelessly alongside other organizations to build housing for some of our city’s most vulnerable individuals. But the need is growing far faster than any of us can keep pace with.

No one should be chronically homeless in our nation’s capital. The current crisis requires community action toward practical, evidence-based solutions in collaboration with people who are experiencing homelessness to ensure that there are a range of options to meet their needs. Shepherds of Good Hope urges all levels of government to work together with organizations on the front lines to ensure that there are accessible, affordable homes for all, community for all and hope for all.

We encourage members of the public to show their support by signing the petition at www.housingemergencyottawa.ca, and attending the rally prior to the vote on January 29, 2020.

Homes for all. Community for all. Hope for all.