Families — many with children — depended on emergency shelters in record numbers last year in Ottawa, according to a report on homelessness that charges Ottawa has moved “backwards” on providing affordable housing that could ease the problem.
The fourth annual Report Card On Ending Homelessness in Ottawa finds that families checked into shelters more frequently in 2007 — and spent more time in them before finding permanent housing — than in any other survey year.
While the city’s final grades for housing, income, homelessness and length of shelter stay will be announced today, “families didn’t fare well,” said Perry Rowe, chairman of the Alliance to End Homelessness.
The latest figures indicate the average length of a shelter stay in 2007 increased by 13.9 per cent, with people in all categories (men, women, youth and families) staying longer than last year, said Dr. Tim Aubry, senior researcher at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services. “That’s an average stay of 38 days.”
One reason is there’s not enough affordable housing, said Lynne Browne, co-ordinator for the Alliance to End Homelessness, which spearheaded the report.
“People can’t move into housing that doesn’t exist,” she said. “It’s just not there.”
“It’s not a matter of things not getting better, we’ve actually gone backwards in this area,” said Rowe.
The report, which covers January 2007 to December 2007, evaluates the city’s progress in ending homelessness last year. Although more people moved to permanent housing between 2006 and 2007 and minimum wage increased in 2007, there has been little growth in affordable housing units and social assistance has not kept up, it finds.
In Ottawa, there are 9,370 households on the social housing waiting list and another 2,000 people still in need of supportive housing, said Rowe. Browne said in 2007, the average rent in Ottawa rose 1.6 per cent to $643 for a bachelor apartment, 3.1 per cent to $798 for a one bedroom and 2.1 per cent to $961 for a two bedroom.