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Homelessness in Ottawa: How Did We Get Here?

A Brief History of Homelessness in Ottawa/ Canada

Social housing was considered critical infrastructure in the post-World War II economic recovery. From 1947 to 1986, there were over 250,000 social housing units constructed across the country.

By the mid-1970s, governments had shifted to primarily providing funds to charities and churches to build and operate social housing.

In 1996, it was announced that the management and funding of social housing would be transferred to the provinces, which was for the most part downloaded to municipalities. Cities have had few resources to address a growing crisis, so interventions have been primarily at the emergency response level.

The National Housing Strategy became a reality in 2017 when government pledged over $70 billion over 10 years to construct 125,000 new affordable housing units and repair 300,000 more.

In 2014, the City of Ottawa created a 10-year Housing & Homelessness plan and launched a Housing First model in 2015. This is an approach where people experiencing homelessness are offered permanent homes without preconditions, and supports are built around them to enable them to keep those homes.

What is needed to end homelessness?

We end homelessness by providing homes — homes that are permanent, affordable, accessible, in close proximity to transit and other needed resources, and with supports according to a person’s individual needs. This means:

  • an adequate supply of deeply affordable housing,
  • policies that ensure lower- and middle-income individuals and families are not priced out of the private rental market, or of home ownership.
  • preventing homelessness through income supports, anti-discrimination policies, rent supplements, early intervention strategies and more.
  • emphasizing rapid re-housing when someone loses their home