I recently attended an event hosted by the Alliance to End Homelessness, where they presented their 2016 Progress Report on Ending Homelessness in Ottawa. Having made affordable housing and homelessness a personal priority for this term of council, I took great interest in both the report and comments made at the event by leaders in this sector.
A simple message to share is that Ottawa (the city and the many organizations active in the Alliance) is making important progress on homelessness. But the needs are still great, and are even growing rather than shrinking in some areas.
Some specific findings include:
- There were more than 7,170 “visible” homeless people in Ottawa in 2016, an increase of more than 5% from 6,815 in 2015. “Visible” refers to individuals using emergency shelters and does not include homeless people staying with friends, couch surfing, etc. The number also does not count the 40,000 households living in poverty and unable to pay rent.
- More older individuals are relying on shelter services, particularly single women, with a 20% increase in women over the age of 50 and a 30% increase in women over 60 in 2016. For older women, safety is a primary concern and a factor in determining where they choose to stay. For example, if a woman has a long walk from a transit stop or the only options for housing are in an area where she feels threatened, she is more likely to choose a shelter.
- The report highlighted the homeless population with dementia as well as new Canadians, including a large number of women and girls from Burundi, where women are being specifically targeted in a long-running civil war.