Family Homelessness Rising: Report Summary

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This is an overview of the Progress Report on Ending Homelessness in Ottawa by the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa:

The latest Progress Report on Ending Homelessness in Ottawa was today released by the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa. The Report – providing a statistical overview of homelessness in Ottawa in 2016 (January to December) – shows limited progress in some areas, and worsening trends in others.

After a record low number of new affordable housing options in 2015, 2016 was considerably better, with 320 new affordable housing options created – through new units, and new subsidies. These housing options are critical components of solutions to homelessness. Many more are needed – particularly in light of the greater number of individuals and families accessing shelter.

Overall, 5.2% more individuals stayed at an emergency shelter in 2016 compared to 2015 (a 10.3% increase from 2014). Increases in homelessness among some groups – including older women, families and ‘younger youth’ – are particularly stark. 2016 saw a 20.1% increase in the number of women over 50, and a 12.5% increase in the number of families, accessing shelter in Ottawa.

Among single men, the average of length of stay declined for the second year – representing some success in finding housing solutions, with services and supports, for some of the shelters’ longest-term single male residents, and diverting others from becoming homeless.

“It is as important as ever that we evaluate how we are doing,” noted Mike Bulthuis, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Emboldened by the emergence of a National Housing Strategy, and by provincial commitments, we have reason to be hopeful. However, we need to target new investments to areas of specific need and ensure our Ten-Year Plan recognizes emerging issues.”

In looking ahead, the Report suggests that in order to fully achieve the goals of Ottawa’s Ten-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, adopted in 2013, we need to collectively direct additional attention to homelessness prevention; to enhancing the availability of appropriate, affordable housing; and to ensuring individuals are well supported within housing to remain stably housed.

Background information below.

For further information:
Mike Bulthuis, Executive Director
Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa
mike@endhomelessnessottawa.ca
cell: 613-222-9831

Backgrounder
Since 2005, the Alliance has released an annual portrait of homelessness. Each report measures year over year change on key indicators including a breakdown of persons using emergency shelters, their average length of shelter stay, housing affordability and the number of new affordable housing options created.
The Report ensures that attention from governments, the community and the private sector is directed most effectively to Ottawa’s specific homelessness challenges.
Homelessness data within the Report represents the experience of individuals who access emergency shelters. Additionally, a small number of individuals are unsheltered, others may be among the ‘hidden homeless’ (staying with friends or family), and still others access VAW emergency shelters. All are without a home of their own.
The City of Ottawa adopted a ten-year housing and homelessness plan – developed in collaboration with the community – in 2013. Together, we are committed to ending chronic homelessness – meaning ensuring that emergency shelter stays are 30 days or less by 2024.
Overall Shelter Stays
For the second consecutive year, 2016 saw a rise in the number of individuals using an emergency shelter: from 6,815 individuals in 2015 to 7,170 in 2016, an increase of 355 individuals, or 5.2% (Table 1). This number represents a 10.3% increase from 2014, when 6,502 individuals accessed a shelter.
The number of “bed nights” – representing each time a shelter bed is used by an individual – increased from 500,233 (in 2015) to 525,972 (in 2016), an increase of 5.1%.
Family Homelessness:
More families are accessing emergency shelter. A total of 879 families accessed emergency shelter in 2016, a 12.5% increase from 2015 (781 families), and a 24.5% increase from 2014 (706 families).
Individuals in families now account for over half of all bed nights used within Ottawa’s shelters.
Ottawa’s family shelters are full. As a result, in 2016, an average of 347 families per night were placed in off-site motels. The cost of providing safe shelter for all of these families in motels is nearly $40,000 per night, and over $1 million each month.
45 new rent supplements and 13 new Housing Allowances were created for families in 2016, enabling some to transition more quickly from shelter to housing. Additional subsidies – combined with the support of the Families First program, delivered by the Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre and funded by the City of Ottawa and federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy – could support many more families to become stably and permanently re-housed.
Adult singles:
More single adults accessed emergency shelter in 2016, compared to 2015 (4,080 individuals in 2016, compared to 3,880 in 2015).
While more men are accessing shelter, their stays are becoming shorter. The average length of stay for single men in Ottawa’s shelters declined from 65 nights in 2014 to 61 nights in 2016 (Table 2) – representing some success in finding housing solutions, with services and supports, for some of the shelters’ longest-term single male residents, and diverting others from becoming chronically homeless.
More single women are also residing in shelters, though their average length of stay is not declining as it is among men.
In particular, a growing number of older women are staying for longer periods in shelter due to a lack of alternative options to meet their health and housing needs. From 2015 to 2016, shelters saw a 20.1% increase in the number of women over 50 and a 31.2% increase among those over 60. For women over 60, their average length of stay increased from 76 days in 2014, to 82 days in 2015, to 86 days in 2016.
Youth in Youth Shelters
While the number of youth staying within Ottawa’s youth shelters (Tables 1 and 2) declined significantly (from 387 youth in 2015 to 287 in 2016), their average length of stay increased from 32 to 47 nights.
The proportion of young people aged 16-17 within youth shelters is increasing; without safe, alternative housing options for these “younger youth,” shelters are offering enhanced supports and retaining youth for longer periods of time until appropriate housing becomes available, including the possibility of family reconnection.
New Affordable Housing
After a record low number of new affordable housing in 2015, 320 new affordable housing options were created in 2016 (Table 6). These include:
(a) 42 new supportive rental homes by Ottawa Salus and 6 new town homes by Ottawa Community Housing.
(b) 100 new rent supplements and 132 new Housing Allowances (supporting 58 families and 174 individuals) were created through a combination of federal, provincial and municipal dollars
(c) 36 new rent supplements were created as part of the Mental Health and Addictions Initiative, funded through the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
(d) Habitat for Humanity opened 4 new homes.
The City of Ottawa can not address the lack of affordable housing on its own; however, a reallocation of $4M (per year) in the 2015 municipal budget, previously directed to new affordable housing, needs to be reinstated.
About the Alliance:
The Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH) is a non-partisan, provincially incorporated non-profit organization working in partnership to inspire action, to generate knowledge and to inform a community-wide effort to achieve an end to homelessness in Ottawa.
The Alliance represents 54 member organizations, each working daily to address the needs of those in Ottawa who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
With a solutions-driven, community-wide approach, the Alliance to End Homelessness seeks to build a civic culture where all recognize that with needed investment, and by working together, we can succeed in ending homelessness.

 


 

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