A people-first approach towards ending homelessness in Ottawa

As the weather stays warm more consistently, you might see more unhoused residents living in small outdoor shelters by themselves or in a group. These encampments can be made up of tents or even cardboard structures. When an encampment is reported, have you ever wondered what happens afterwards?

Meet Aysha Farouk, a Project Coordinator with the City who is on a team tasked with developing a people-first plan to help residents living in encampments. Since she started this position in 2019, the number of reported encampments more than tripled because of the pandemic. In response, Aysha and her team created a collaborative approach with multiple City departments and community partners to ensure these residents feel safe and cared for.

“The encampment response ensures support services are available to the client before enforcement takes place,” says Aysha. “We ensure our outreach service partners have time for meaningful engagement built on trust.”

So, what exactly is done after the City is notified of an encampment? Once a report is made, a City team coordinates with an outreach partner, such as the Salvation Army, to discuss the best way to approach that individual resident. The outreach team then goes to the encampment to ensure there are no dangers to the resident or the immediate area and offers the resident a variety of resources, such as:

  • Food and water
  • Information on housing and shelter options
  • Transportation to a different location of the resident’s choice such as a friend or family member’s residence or a shelter
  • Help with documents needed to access City programs or health services

The final step of dismantling the encampment keeps the health and safety of the resident as the number one priority. “Outreach services works with the clients to respond to their immediate needs while discussing sheltering options,” notes Aysha.

This resident-focused, multi-step approach to encampments was developed with a wide range of partners. The success of collaboration with community partners, outreach groups and other contributors led to them forming a task force to continue exchanging information and fine-tuning best practices to minimize the risks for residents. The task force now has over 70 attendees who meet monthly.

“We keep current by participating in meetings with other municipalities and look to our academic and community partners to advise on solutions that make sense for our clients,” remarked Aysha. “What I’ve heard in these past three years are amazing stories of resilience, being a survivor and of successful housing placements.”

If you or someone you know need support, visit ottawa.ca/socialservices. To learn more about Housing Services with the City, or to read about the 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan, visit ottawa.ca.

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