An encampment was recently dismantled along the light rail corridor near Tom Brown Area. Our housing crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating pressures on our most vulnerable citizens. Encampments are a serious sign of distress. Please see below a statement of key messages from the City of Ottawa.
The HCA is monitoring and will post updates as needed.
Apart from an encampment in the fall of 2019, the City has not historically encountered many encampments within City limits. The number of individuals experiencing homelessness and street-living has been relatively low due to a robust housing with supports initiative, known as Housing First. Encampments have typically been for short duration, until appropriate housing and shelter solutions are found.
It is well documented that people who live in encampments often face profound challenges with respect to their health, security and well-being. With the onset and continuation of the COVID-19 crisis in the spring and summer of 2020, many individuals who normally reside in shelters or who are couch-surfing have opted to live on the streets, instead of accessing mainstream services, including physical distancing shelters, citing personal safety and fear of exposure to COVID-19 as reasons. The City recognizes that individuals may find themselves living in encampments for other reasons, including home take-overs, overcrowded housing and personal efforts to protect vulnerable family members.
Housing Solutions as a Primary Response
The City’s approach to addressing encampments is primarily supportive andenforcement is only considered as a last resort option. As such, Homelessness Service Provider partners have ramped up the street-level response to meet the housing and support needs of individuals living on the street and those residing temporarily in group settings. Additional street outreach services through Ottawa Inner City Health and the Salvation Army have been funded to support our coordinated community response to street living/encampment issues for the Summer of 2020.
Strategies have also been put in place to test individuals experiencing homelessness for the COVID-19 virus, through Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Inner City Heath. Harm reduction support and supplies are available through various service providers, including Community Health and Resource Centres.
Encampments are identified through outreach service providers and observationby the City’s Bylaw and Regulatory Services, Ottawa Police Services and PublicWorks. Individuals in encampments are engaged by service partners for assessment and housing needs. As encampments are identified, the City will work closely with the Salvation Army and Ottawa Inner City Health outreach services to identify the individuals by name, assess their needs and provide wrap-around services (i.e. mobile mental health services, Indigenous providers) to explore viable housing options. These may include sheltering solutions such as emergency shelters or the physical distancing centre at the Jim Durrell Centre, as appropriate.
The City is also exploring several other options to increase housing availability for encampment residents including:
- Working with the Alliance to End Homelessness and community partnersto conduct a “Housing Blitz”, an initiative aimed at recruiting morelandlords to make more rental units available
- Exploring all available funding options to create more housing subsidies
- Exploring the re-purposing of buildings for additional sheltering options
Dismantling Encampments as a Secondary or Follow-Up Response
The City is not able to sanction encampments on City of Ottawa property as a solution to ending homelessness. The health and safety of encampment residents and all Ottawa residents is first and foremost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through collaboration and communication between City departments, encampments will be dismantled when all above-mentioned supportive options have been exhausted and when there is evidence of:
- Lack of compliance with Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 prevention control measures that put other encampment residents or the general public at risk of contracting the virus
- Confirmation of a COVID-19 outbreak, other infectious diseases and general unwellness of individuals experiencing homelessness in encampments
- Being adjacent to building entrances, impeding entrance, emergency exits, security and fire suppression equipment
- Being located near or next to housing or services for vulnerablepopulations such as seniors’ residences, addiction treatment centres and youth group homes
- Being adjacent to public parks, school playgrounds or other outdoor recreational facilities
- Disregard for sanitation, hygiene or proper garbage and needle disposal
- Use of combustible fuels, including wood for cooking and heatingpurposes
- Use of make-shift structures that impede pedestrian and vehicular traffic
- Criminal acts including, but not limited to, human and drug trafficking,violence causing bodily harm, property damage and theft from residentsand businesses
- Excessive noise, trespassing, animal welfare concerns and public safetycomplaints from the surrounding community
All media enquiries should be directed to the City’s Public Information & Media Relations Department by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 613-580- 2450.
City of Ottawa, Housing Services
Homelessness Programs & Residential Services Branch 100 Constellation Drive, 8 East
Ottawa, ON K2G 6J8
Tel: 613-580-2424 extension: 43206 Mobile: 613-668-0830