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Food insecurity and two years over 100% capacity: Ottawa Mission says it's in crisis

"If the goal was to reduce shelter use by 40 per cent [according to City of Ottawa's plan], the number of shelter users should now be 5,150, declining to 3,862 people by 2023," explained Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley. "Instead, the number is almost 8,000."
Ottawa Mission Logo
Ottawa Mission Logo.

The Ottawa Mission is attempting to take matters into its own hands, but needs help from all levels of government, as shelter numbers continue to rise despite being halfway through a 10-year plan to curb homelessness in the city.

The orgainzation released its second annual homelessness report Thursday, with recommendations on how the city can cut down the growing number of local homeless people.

Last year, 2,221 people stayed at the Ottawa Mission's downtown location, while almost 8,000 made use of its services across the city. 

Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley said the wait list for affordable housing has increased by 14.8 per cent, and emergency shelter use has risen 6.5 per cent in the last year alone.

"If the goal was to reduce shelter use by 40 per cent [according to City of Ottawa's plan], the number of shelter users should now be 5,150, declining to 3,862 people by 2023."

Meanwhile the Mission said it's dealing with high rates of food insecurity. Last year, it served 495,000 meals, and based on trends for this year, it will serve more than 500,000 meals through its community meals program.

City Councillor Catherine McKenney thinks these problems come back to a lack of local affordable housing, combined with the need for governments to invest more in solutions. She wants to know how much money it would take to completely eliminate Ottawa homelessness in five years.

"Tell us what the numbers are -- they will be big, but tell us what they are," said McKenney, "Then each level of government has to make a determination on whether they are committed to reducing that number."

Executive Director of the Ottawa Mission Peter Tilley helped establish a department of housing at the Mission in the last year, which helps find individuals in need a permanent residence.

"We just knew we had to do something," he explained. "We can't sit and wait on government, we have got to find housing for people."

The Ottawa Mission has placed around 200 people in homes through 2018-19. Tilley added, it is looking to find permanent shelter for another 250 this year, but the organization needs more government support.

"We appreciate the allocation of $15-million within the draft 2020 City of Ottawa budget, but this is not enough," said the CEO. "Given the gravity and urgency of this crisis, the provincial and federal governments also need to be involved now, given the limited ability of the cityto raise funds for homelessness."

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