1310 News: City asking for federal funding to help with emergency shelters as it deals with a housing crisis

Shelters across the city are at capacity and it's putting a strain on the budget.

By: Jenn Pritchard

In December, Ottawa's mayor sent a letter to the federal minister responsible for housing requesting funding for emergency shelters. 

The letter to Jean-Yves Duclos cites the financial and capacity pressures the city of Ottawa is experiencing when it comes to emergency shelter services. 

Jim Watson notes that taxpayers absorbed an estimated $5.7 million budget pressure thanks in part to more families crossing the border into Canada. 

He notes that while the government allocated $11 million in funding to help with the influx of refugees in Ontario, all that money went to the city of Toronto. 

The mayor just wants Ottawa to get its fair share. 

The city's Special Liason for Housing and Homelessness, councillor Catherine McKenney explained to 1310 NEWS that Ottawa is in the middle of a housing crisis.

Right now, there are 260 families living in motels and hotels, covered by taxpayer dollars. That's a 53 per cent increase over 2017. 

McKenney said that these costs are causing a budget defict. 

"We have to get it somewhere else and that is always a strain. It's a strain on our social services, it's a strain on our housing system." 

It's why she put her name on the letter to the federal government as well. 

"To date, the federal government has not spent any money towards any type of housing. We have a national housing strategy and we've never seen a dollar come into the city to build a unit of housing." 

If the federal government were to provide funding, the city said it would be used to expand the partnership with the local YMCA. 

The YMCA currently provides four floors of emergency family shelter but they have the capacity to add two or three more floors. This would require $2.5 million in funding. 

McKenney explained that ideally, she'd like to see the city just spend the large amount of money needed on affordable housing now rather than continue to pay to keep increasing emergency shelters. She said this is a conversation the city needs to have when it comes to budget deliberations. 

See the letter at OttawaMatters.com
 

Catherine McKenney