Fewer persons accessing shelters – but longer periods of homelessness point to a missing key ingredient in solutions to homelessness: affordable housing. The latest Progress Report on Ending Homelessness, summarizing the state of homelessness in Ottawa at the end of 2014, was released by the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa on Monday, June 15, 2015.
As it has since 2005, the Report measures annual change in the number of persons using emergency shelters, the average length of shelter stay, housing affordability and the number of new affordable housing options created.
The 2014 Report shows a 2.6% reduction in the number of persons using an emergency shelter – from 6,695 in 2013 to 6,520 in 2014 – the second annual reduction since numbers peaked in 2012. Support for innovative community programs – many focused on prevention and rapid rehousing – are having results.
However, longer periods of homelessness are a troubling trend – pointing to an acute shortage of affordable housing options in Ottawa. In 2014, the average length of stay in Ottawa’s shelters rose to 77 nights from a previous high of 73 in 2013.
As Tim Simboli, Chair of the Alliance notes, “The year 2014 saw only 141 new affordable housing options created, in the form of newly created housing or housing subsidies. Over 10,200 households ended the year on the community’s wait list for subsidized housing. The numbers reflect a pressing need for governments, joined by all sectors, to prioritize the creation of affordable housing and related supports.”
Reflecting emerging community priorities, this year’s Report also includes several new indicators. Specific information is included on the state of homelessness among young people, older adults and those who are chronically or episodically homeless.
The information is a call to action for the entire community. As Mike Bulthuis, Executive Director of the Alliance notes, “The City of Ottawa’s 10-year housing plan states our community’s clear goal: an end to long-term homelessness. Meaningful progress requires us all to do more. The ten-year plan is now. ”
Alliance to End Homelessness, June 15, 2015