March 11, 2016: Spring is in the air (as is Daylight Savings Time…)! The Alliance continues to move into an exciting workplan for 2016 – convening initiatives to advance local efforts to prevent and end homelessness, and monitoring and engaging the policy and program landscape to effect necessary change.  Stay tuned for the release of the 2015 Progress Report on Ending Homelessness in late April!

Here are a number of specific updates and upcoming events:

  • A Way Home Ottawa
  • Coalition for the Repeal of Ontario’s Safe Streets Act
  • Actions for Housing Now
  • {Refugee613} Housing Task Force
  • Broadening the Base
  • Save the Date! (Research – Community Networking Event, April 21)
  • Building Knowledge
  • Provincial Budget and Affordable Housing Strategy
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

A Way Home Ottawa: This local coalition – convened by the Alliance, and made possible with United Way Ottawa support – is working to prevent and end youth homelessness in Ottawa. The initiative, led by a steering committee, youth leadership team, and our Project Coordinator Kaite Harris, will see the development and implementation of an integrated community strategy aimed at responding better to youth homelessness. With thanks to funding from the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, seven young people have come together to become the initiative’s youth leadership team, hired to help guide / steer the process. You can read more about A Way Home Ottawa (AWHO) by clicking here.

As part of AWHO, we’re pleased also to be working with Dr. Jacqueline Kennelly (Sociology, Carleton University – and Co-Chair of the Alliance Research Committee) and Anthropology graduate student Justin Langille, with funding support from Mitacs, to better understand the challenges that homeless and at-risk youth currently experience. Carleton’s monthly community magazine recently wrote on the project – which you can read by clicking here.

Coalition for the Repeal of Ontario’s Safe Streets Act: Following consideration by our Policy Committee and Board, the Alliance recently added its voice to the Coalition for the Repeal of Ontario’s Safe Streets Act. Recognizing that the legislation presents potential for misinterpretation, that it has an inadvertent impact on vulnerable people, and that it consumes unnecessary resources within our justice system, we are pleased to join others calling for the legislation’s repeal. You can read more about the Coalition by clicking here.

This week, National Post columnist Robyn Urback wrote a supportive Op-Ed calling for reconsideration of such legislation, entitled: “Ticketing the homeless is ineffective, inhumane and needlessly punitive.” As you may know, a number of Alliance member organizations currently host the Ticket Defence Program, offering free legal support, in concert with faculty and students at the University of Ottawa. A June 2015 article from CBC can be found here.

Actions for Housing Now: The Alliance was pleased to co-organize this Forum, held on February 11, along with Tyee Solutions Society, CHRA, Carleton University’s School of Public Policy, Carleton’s Centre for Urban Research and Education (CURE) and Broadening the Base.  Mindful of the mandates given to numerous federal government Ministries as our new federal government begins its work, the Forum asked: How could the affordable housing system help advance solutions to various social, environmental and economic issues? Participants began to creatively identify policy and program opportunities for which we can advocate. To learn more about the event, you can read this article by the Tyee Solutions Society.

A Backgrounder for the event, linking affordable housing to current federal departmental mandates (as expressed in Mandate Letters) – to assist us and many others in demonstrating the case for affordable housing is available as a download by clicking here.

{Refugee613} Housing Task Force: Since November, the Alliance has been co-convening the Task Force, one of numerous working groups in our city under the auspices of {Refugee613}, supporting the welcoming and settlement of refugees. The Housing Task Force – which meets monthly – brings together landlords, settlement services, non-profit housing providers, cooperatives, the City of Ottawa, housing search agencies, faith communities, schools and concerned residents into a common space to inspire and share information of various actions being taken across our community to provide short-term and long-term accommodation to incoming refugees.  With heightened attention  to housing challenges, another {Refugee613} working group – oriented to Inspiring Change – has begun to explore ways to build public awareness for stronger housing policies and programs.

For more on the housing crisis and opportunity presented by welcoming refugees, you can read an Op-Ed by Sharad Kerur (Executive Director, ONPHA), entitled Refugees’ needs expose Canada’s housing crisis.

Broadening the Base: Earlier this month, following an inaugural ‘Invitation to Collaborate,’ Broadening the Base (BtB) announced collaboration with four innovative Ottawa projects intended to expand the availability of affordable housing in our community. The Invitation to Collaborate sought viable concepts for affordable housing development in Ottawa that were open to engaging BtB in their planning process, looking to identify a more diverse group of stakeholders and new and under-utilized mechanisms and models that could leverage resources and partnerships for their projects, and that were willing to share this information with the larger community. These projects will serve as living innovation labs to test and create knowledge around how to identify and integrate new resources and partnerships for affordable housing development in Ottawa. You can read more about these projects, and the collaboration, on the Broadening the Base website (and by clicking here).

Save the Date! Building a community with homes for all (April 21): A researcher-community networking event hosted by the Alliance – aimed at cultivating new researcher-community partnerships and to strengthen existing ones – is planned for April 21 at Pressed Café. Hear Juno-award-winning Jesse Stewart; rock and roll group the Big Bucket Band, and Kwesi, DJ and member of the A Way Home Ottawa youth leadership team. More details – including registration – will be available soon. In the meantime, if there are researchers or students you know that should be invited, please let me know!

Building Knowledge: Over the past year, the Alliance has been approached by a number of funders and organizations to convene our network (all of you), and to undertake community-led planning and research initiatives to help us better address homelessness and housing insecurity in key areas. We’re building knowledge to better understand experiences of homelessness among veterans, around municipal planning processes that could enhance availability of affordable housing, around enhancing safety and housing outcomes related to street-level sex work, among other areas. Many of you are involved in these initiatives, and we look forward to sharing updates and results through the year.

Provincial Budget and Affordable Housing Strategy: The Province of Ontario tabled its budget on February 25. We are pleased to see funding commitments for affordable and supportive housing, for homelessness initiatives, for a portable housing benefit pilot, a basic income pilot, and an indication of legislative changes to come. We will continue to monitor implementation of these commitments, while calling for meaningful enhancements to respond to actual need. The Province is expected to release the next phase of its Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy next week.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter! We’re on Facebook and Twitter, and regularly share news from Ottawa and away. Over recent weeks, a particularly popular post was one shared from HuffPost, by Glen Pearson, Director, London Food Bank, and former Member of Parliament, entitled “Eradicating Poverty Will Require A Shift from Charity to Justice”