Monday, April 20, 2015

In 2013 the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness came to Ottawa for our first National Conference on Ending Homelessness. We chose Ottawa because you have a longstanding record of leadership and innovation in ending homelessness and as the nation’s capital, we could put ending homelessness literally on the doorstep of Parliament.

We’re back in Ottawa with the 20,000 Homes Campaign and again Ottawa is earning its reputation for leadership and innovation by stepping up to become a pilot city for the campaign. Once more we have an opportunity to put ending homelessness on the national agenda.

The 20,000 Homes Campaign is a national movement of communities working together to permanently house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people by July 1, 2018.

The campaign is founded in the belief that homelessness is a national emergency requiring urgent and immediate action. ‘Action Week’ is a great name for your local campaign, because action is what this is all about! This week you are fanning out across the city in the all important first step – getting to know your homeless neighbours by name, understanding their needs and beginning the process of housing the most vulnerable.

The 20,000 Homes Campaign was inspired by the 100,000 Homes Campaign in the US that hit their goal last July. We’re working hard to adapt the US model and methods to fit in Canada and Ottawa has become a critical test site for that adaptation. You’ve already helped us sort through key questions relating to confidentiality, data collection & analysis, survey questions, housing placement targets and communication.

But more than helping the campaign get organized to house 20,000 people, Ottawa is a launching pad for a much bigger transformation in Canada’s response to homelessness.

Over the next three years, the 20,000 Homes Campaign will work with communities to develop coordinated homelessness systems of care focused on ending homelessness leading to long-lasting local and regional change. The data we collect through the campaign will allow us to expose and begin to resolve problems in the public systems that contribute to homelessness. We will also gain a better understanding of youth and Aboriginal homelessness in order to begin to resolve both, and critically, the campaign will support a grassroots, non-partisan advocacy effort aimed at building public and political support for a $1.7 billion/year federal reinvestment in affordable and supportive housing.

By volunteering to become a pilot city for the 20,000 Homes Campaign Ottawa is playing a lead role in beginning the end of homelessness in Canada.

Thank you Ottawa for embracing the campaign with such enthusiasm and professionalism. Special thanks to the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness, the City of Ottawa, United Way Ottawa, the many agency partners and volunteers who are doing the heavy lifting to make your Action Week happen.

With your continued leadership, inspiration and action, Canada Day 2018 will be much more than a birthday party – it will be a national homecoming for 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people and a celebration of our collective success.

Tim Richter is the CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Photo Credit: United Way Ottawa.