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Homeless report shows lost ground

When it comes to providing for the homeless, Ottawa is stuck in a time warp, a group working to combat homelessness said.

When it comes to providing for the homeless, Ottawa is stuck in a time warp, a group working to combat homelessness said.

After all the work that city groups are doing, “we’ve lost ground again,” said Alliance to End Homelessness chairman Perry Rowe. “And we haven’t improved in five years.

“We talk about a 10-year plan all the time. But that’s not going to do any good if we don’t do anything about it.”

The Alliance to End Homelessness released its fifth annual report card for ending homelessness in Ottawa for 2008 yesterday — and the results weren’t pretty. The organization gave each of housing, homelessness and length of shelter stay a D grade — one grade lower than last year — and income a C grade.

Because of a lack of beds, more than 100 people are sleeping on shelter floors every night, Rowe said.

But “we can’t afford to expand the shelter system any more,” Rowe said. “We need to do something about affordable housing.”

Because city vacancy rates are down to 1.4 per cent, “there is little or no movement of affordable housing in the city,” Rowe said.

Even if something is done, the situation will likely get worse before it gets better, Rowe said. “We haven’t seen the ripple from the economic crisis yet — and likely won’t until mid-year.”

Formerly homeless, Ottawa resident John Jorgensen said the numbers presented yesterday worried him.

“We see here housing is more of a privilege than a right and that’s definitely wrong,” Jorgensen said.

“There is a lump in my stomach when I look at what the story is,” Rowe said. “In a city like this, in a country like this, this is no longer acceptable. We as a society need to be ashamed. It’s time to do something about it.”

Shelters
• In 2008, shelter beds were used 386,506 times, up from 341,212 in 2007.

• The average length of stay in shelters also went up from 46 days in 2007 to 51 in 2008.

 
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