Here in Ottawa, we’re five weeks away from launching our community’s participation in 20,000 Homes – a national movement of communities currently being convened by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, to permanently house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people by July, 2018.

Our success depends on you.

To begin, we’re launching a grassroots, non-partisan effort to better understand what homelessness in Ottawa looks like. Our campaign, I am… Homeless, not Nameless, kicks off with a week of action from April 18-23. During that period, teams of volunteers (…this could include you – opportunities identified below) and front-line workers will survey those in Ottawa without homes – engaging those on our streets and in our shelters, and those less visible, among our hidden homeless, to learn about their housing needs. In the process, we’ll create opportunities for residents across the city to hear and learn the names and stories of those without homes. And, drawing both on surveys and existing data, we’ll create a portrait of homelessness in Ottawa, developing a better understanding of the priority housing and supports needed to end homelessness.

Within a few days of surveying and documenting these stories, we’ll roll up this information, presenting it to the entire community – drawing on the names and stories of those we’ve met. We know that Ottawa is a caring community, and our 10-year housing and homelessness plan represents our shared vision – that of a community without homelessness, where everyone has a home. Let’s maximize our resources, bringing together governments, citizens, private sector and community leaders from the voluntary and faith-based sectors, to creatively develop and invest in the permanent housing and support services needed to make our plan a reality.

As Rosanne Haggerty notes, “the world is full of complex social problems for which no reliable, cost effective solutions have been found. Homelessness is not one of them.” We know that permanent housing solutions are cost-effective, and we know that those without homes can be housed. No one’s homelessness needs to be long-term; no one’s homelessness needs to become an identity. Joe, a participant in the recent At Home / Chez Soi study, best explains this: “We’re not trying to house the homeless … we are housing people who have, for whatever reason, become homeless.”

I am… Homeless, not Nameless (our community’s local campaign within the national 20,000 Homes initiative) seeks to encourage all of Ottawa to come together, maximizing our collective impact, broadening the base of support for housing and support services. Together, we’ll be leaders across the country, joining Waterloo and Hamilton in piloting a process to engage Canadians in communities across the country.

Our week of action in mid-April is taking shape. Ultimately, its success hinges on the engagement of volunteers like you. We’re looking for volunteers in the following areas:

  • Survey Teams: We need volunteers to work in teams alongside frontline staff to interview people experiencing homelessness. Some teams will be walking with street outreach teams, while others will be stationed in various day programs and drop-ins. Shifts are available in the mornings / afternoons / evenings (4-7pm and 9pm – midnight) of Saturday, April 18; Monday, April 20; and Tuesday, April 21. To be part of a survey team, you will need to participate in training; please indicate your availability for daytime training on Friday, April 17 (12 noon – 4pm) or Saturday, April 18 (9am – 1pm).
  • Documentation: We are seeking artists to assist in documenting the names and faces of those interviewed by survey teams (of those willing to share themselves in this way). We’d welcome you to contact us with a willingness to assist in this documentation through photography, film, design, poetry and writing.
  • Data Entry: We are seeking volunteers to fill 3-hour shifts during the survey week (Monday – Wednesday, April 20-22), to enter the data collected by the survey teams. These volunteers will be individuals who are already comfortable with data entry on a computer system. This commitment can be for one shift or multiple shifts.
  • Headquarters Volunteers: Throughout the campaign (Monday, April 20 – Tuesday, April 21), we will establish a headquarters at St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward). We need volunteers to staff the headquarters, coordinating refreshments and supplies (to be provided), helping to collect surveys, facilitating data entry and assisting in general set-up and clean-up.
  • Headquarters Supplies: Would you like to sponsor refreshments or sandwiches for our volunteers? We’d be pleased to hear from you.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please contact us – via clicking on the following email (preferable) at info <at> endhomelessnessottawa <dot> ca – or via telephone: 613-241-1573 x 314. We would love to hear from you by Monday, April 6. In doing so, please clearly indicate (1) the specific volunteer tasks for which you are interested and (2) your availability. Please note the training requirements for survey teams and data entry, as well, indicating your availability for training on either Friday, April 17 (12 noon to 4pm) or Saturday, April 18 (9am to 1pm). We’ll follow-up to confirm details!

We look forward to hearing from you! When it comes to homelessness, together, #WeCanEndIt.