News / Ottawa

Health centres call for action on Ottawa rooming houses

A new report finds bugs, broken plumbing and heating problems in some of the city's rooming houses.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, Mike Bulthuis, executive director of the alliance to end homelessness and Joanna Binch, a nurse practioner who visits rooming houses often at a press conference Tuesday releasing the report.

Ryan Tumilty / Metro

Coun. Catherine McKenney, Mike Bulthuis, executive director of the alliance to end homelessness and Joanna Binch, a nurse practioner who visits rooming houses often at a press conference Tuesday releasing the report.

Two community health centres are calling on the City of Ottawa and the Ontario government to be more proactive after finding plumbing and heating problems, overcrowding and infestations of bed bugs and cockroaches in the city’s rooming houses.

The Somerset West Community Health Centre and the Centretown Community Health Centre wrote the report looking at the conditions in rooming houses. After interviewing tenants living in the houses, they found widespread problems and are recommending new bylaws and more rental income support.

Joanna Binch , a nurse practitioner who focuses on rooming houses, said they have seen all kinds of issues in the houses.

“We have seen those broken faucets, broken windows and broken stairs that make it difficult to traverse,” she said.

She said people who are recently homeless or in dire economic straits often have no choice and the city has to do more to improve conditions.

“For a certain segment of the population this is the only choice that they have,” she said. “These are very vulnerable people.”

While the research involved interviews with only 10 residents, Binch said those interviews just confirmed what they have seen during their own visits.

The centres are calling on the City of Ottawa to pass a new bylaw that would limit rooming houses to a maximum of four occupants sharing the same kitchen and bathroom.

They also want to see more resources for inspections and they want the province to increase the rent supplement program.

Coun. Catherine McKenney said the people living in rooming houses aren’t able to raise these issues.

“If you are that vulnerable and you’re terrified of being homeless, you are not going to complain, you are not going to speak out," she said. "So, that is for us to do.”

She said she hoped to bring forward bylaw changes soon. She also said the city has to step up its resources for inspecting rooming houses.

“If we are licensing a rooming house we have to be serious about it.”

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