With supportive community housing and shelters dotting the city from Kanata to Rideau-Rockcliffe, the Shepherds of Good Hope has been on the front lines of Ottawa's homelessness epidemic for four decades.
Celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2023, Shepherds of Good Hope chief executive officer Deirdre Freiheit recognizes that, despite their growth, homelessness remains a major issue in the city.
"I think it would have been nice if we could put ourselves out of the shelter business and focus on housing," said Freiheit on The Sam Laprade Show. "But 40 years later, the need is still there."
Reflecting on those years, Freiheit has seen the changes facing the community. Alcohol addiction used to be the biggest problem they faced, but now the opioid crisis and a toxic supply of drugs on the streets make for a much more complicated and challenging situation.
Add in a pandemic and a housing crisis, and you have a perfect storm.
According to Freiheit, there are approximately 200 people sleeping on the street at night without access to shelter of any kind.
"'It's really difficult to get people out of shelters and into permanent housing," she said, "There's just not enough of it."
The Shepherds of Good Hope have certainly taken a crack at the housing crisis. Over the last 40 years they have grown to 13 supportive housing residences, supporting more than 200 people with permanent, stable housing in 2022. This is on top of another 231 people, on average, using their shelter services every night.
They are also another 105 supportive housing units currently under construction.
When done right and with adequate support services like Ottawa Inner City Health, Freiheit said their clients see impressive success.
"Once people obtain a place of their own with a lock on the door and their own shower and their own bed, they don't want to go back to the shelters," she said. "I would say 90 to 95 per cent of them remain in housing and don't go back to the shelter system."
Freiheit is grateful for the community's support over the last 40 years, and any small donation, monetary or as a volunteer, can make an impact.
Listen to the full interview with Deirdre Freiheit on The Sam Laprade Show below.