Ontario residents go to the polls on October 22 this year to elect their municipal governments. In advance of the election, I urge Ottawa voters to discuss the issue of homelessness and affordable housing with their candidates. I ask them to consider the most vulnerable in our society, the poor and the homeless. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8).
Ottawa and the surrounding region, like most major cities across the country, is facing a crisis of homelessness. Despite having a ten-year Housing and Homelessness Plan, last year the city saw a 5% increase in the number of people requiring emergency shelter. The largest increase in homelessness was among families with children, who now account for over half of the bed nights used in Ottawa’s shelters. This crisis is fuelled by severe shortages of affordable housing, extreme poverty for people with minimum wage jobs or on social assistance, inadequate funding for mental health and addictions treatment, and a failure to focus on early intervention and prevention of homelessness.