News / Ottawa

Alliance to End Homelessness aims to house 20,000 people by 2018

Ottawa police are teaming up with more than 100 volunteers who are conducting surveys this week for a national campaign that will try to find permanent housing for 20,000 homeless Canadians by July 1, 2018.

The 20,000 Homes Campaign is inspired by a U.S. initiative that saw 100,000 homeless Americans secure housing in four years.

“It’s very impressive,” said Mike Bulthuis, executive director of the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

The not-for-profit organization is hoping the replicate the success of its U.S. counterpart, but with a smaller target.

Statistics from Ottawa showed that more than 6,500 people spent an average of 77 days in emergency shelters last year. While the number of shelter users went down compared to 2013, those staying in them are there for longer periods of time.

“We know that there are several hundred in that number that are pushing that average up,” said Bulthuis.

“Among that several hundred, there are some who have been there for months and months, and some that have been there for years.”

The 10- to 15-minute survey will help identify the housing needs and health issues for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Police will tag along Monday and Tuesday to help connect volunteers with homeless people on the street and in temporary shelters.

As Ottawa and other cities lean toward the housing-first approach to eradicating homelessness, this survey will help pinpoint those who have the most urgent need for immediate housing support.

Ending homelessness isn’t just a moral issue, said Bulthuis—it’s also a financial issue, because keeping people in shelters is expensive.

Not only that, research shows homeless people are engaged more with publicly funded institutions, such as paramedics, police, hospitals and the justice system.

“It is far more cost-effective for us to have a housing response," said Bulthuis, "than it is to have the police or the paramedics or other systems respond to individuals."

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