Committee approves strategy to accelerate housing for shelter clients

A graphic with Ottawa City Hall is in the background. A vertical grey stripe and a horizontal purple stripe are in the foreground with "Community Services Committee" in the centre.

On June 27, the City’s Community Services Committee approved the Integrated Transition to Housing Strategy, to help single people experiencing homelessness find housing and to address immediate pressures in the shelter system. 

Ottawa’s community shelters are currently over capacity, and more people enter the system every day. The City’s two physical distancing centres are currently supporting the increased demand for shelter services. The strategy aims to bring stability to the shelter system and help clients quickly transition to housing by giving them the support they need to find a stable home. 

The City would continue to provide temporary overflow shelter this year, to ensure that anyone who wants to access a shelter bed can do so, and would work with partners on coordinated rapid rehousing, to place clients more quickly in supportive and community housing. The City would also pilot a new enhanced housing allowance based on true market rent, to help clients who need additional financial support to secure long-term housing. 

To address the anticipated growth in demand for services over the next five years, the City would continue to develop supportive housing, including the 198 new units underway, and work toward the target of 50 new units of supportive housing per year set out in the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.  

The City would work with the shelter sector to create new initiatives, offering integrated services to better support clients seeking housing. The long-term aim is to develop a community supportive housing hub that would offer a variety of housing and social services focused on transitioning clients to permanent stable housing.  

The City would use $8.7 million in existing funding to provide the pilot housing allowance and operate the shelter overflow facility. Further funding requirements will be included in the updated Housing Services Long Range Financial Plan and will be considered as part of the 2024 budget process. 

The Committee also approved a strategy for the first phase of a safer alternative response for mental health and substance use crises. The program was developed based on comprehensive research and consultation led by the Ottawa Guiding Council for Mental Health and Addictions.  

The program would initially run for three years in one geographic location, starting in 2024. A non-9-1-1 phone number would triage calls and dispatch responses. A 24/7 mobile service would respond to calls, led by civilian professionals with expertise in mental health and substance use crises. Non-uniformed responders would offer trauma-informed and culturally appropriate crisis response services. Clients would also receive follow-up care, including referrals to community-based services for ongoing support. Over the course of the first phase, the Guiding Council and the City would measure performance and evaluate the system, to inform a plan for future expansion. 

The Committee also received an update on the progress of the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan. In 2022, the City built a strong foundation by putting in place the key people, processes and tools needed for the plan’s sustained success. The City advanced ongoing work in its six priority areas, including integrating services and simplifying access for residents, funding 19 community agencies to build capacity in priority areas, and helping develop the safer alternative response for mental health and substance abuse crises. Next steps include building a poverty reduction strategy, collaborating with community partners to reduce intimate partner violence, and piloting trauma-informed and anti-stigma training for staff who provide front line and support services. 

These reports will rise to Council on Wednesday, July 12. 

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