2014 Progress Report on Ending Homelessness in Ottawa
Ending homelessness. This goal guides the Alliance and compels us to take stock each year of progress towards that end. Following last year’s 10-year retrospective, this 11th Progress Report summarizes the state of homelessness in Ottawa in 2014.
There is both good news and challenging news. Positively, our community saw a 2.6% reduction (175 people) in the number of individuals using an emergency shelter in 2014 compared to 2013. However, the average length of stay of shelter clients increased from 73 nights in 2013 to 77 nights in 2014 – resulting in over 15,000 additional nights of shelter bed usage through the year. Among families, the average length of stay increased to 105 nights – pointing to the acute shortage of affordable housing options in Ottawa.
The City of Ottawa’s 10-year housing plan clearly states our community’s goal as an end to long-term homelessness. The plan articulates a community target – that by 2024, emergency shelter stays will be 30 days or less for any homeless person. To lay a foundation for measuring progress towards this goal, this Report identifies the number of adults and families who were chronically or episodically homeless in 2014 – those who have been homeless for six months or more, or for repeat episodes, within the calendar year.
For the first time, this Report also includes data on the shelter use of two sub-populations who require our on-going attention: young people (16-25) and older adults (50+).
- Recognizing the unique needs of young people in their transitions to adulthood, in 2015 the Alliance and community partners – supported by United Way Ottawa – will begin development of an integrated community strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness, drawing on a Housing First framework. In 2014, 932 young people between the ages of 16-25 used an emergency shelter (including, but not limited to youth shelters). We need to work together to ensure our homeless young people do not become homeless adults.
- Older adults who are homeless also present unique issues in comparison to other homeless individuals – arising from their pathways to homelessness, their health concerns and the rate at which they utilize homeless services. Alongside an aging population, are we seeing the ‘greying of the homeless population’? Reporting on this for the first time, we know that over 1200 individuals aged 50+ used an emergency shelter in Ottawa in 2014.
This year’s Report continues to highlight the shortage of housing that is affordable. Only 141 new affordable housing options in the form of newly created housing or housing subsidies were created in 2014. Over 10,200 households ended the year on our community’s wait list for subsidized housing. Clearly, the potential success of a Housing First approach or any effort to rapidly rehouse individuals is challenged by a lack of affordable and supportive housing options.
With an election near, it is important to note that federal investments in social housing are expiring. The $1.6 billion federal investment in affordable housing is set to drop to $0 by 2040 – unless a commitment is made to retain this investment. This is the time to commit to new social housing, to the repair and maintenance of existing social housing, and to the creation of new rent subsidies with supports for vulnerable Canadians (www.housing4all.ca).
In Ontario, the Province’s commitment to ending homelessness and the 2015 update to its Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy need to be leveraged for better housing outcomes. Municipally, the City of Ottawa can and should grow its Housing and Homelessness Investment Plan. This is also time to broaden the base of support – welcoming, alongside governments, strengthened engagement of all sectors across the community.
Investments in affordable, appropriate housing outcomes are cost-effective – reinforcing other investments in training, education and health, and reducing costs in social services and emergency responses. To achieve real progress, we all need to be champions for our community’s goal of ending homelessness. The ten-year plan is now.