Between 2014 and 2017, the number of homeless families in Ottawa increased by 171%. Their average stay in emergency shelters increased from 105 to 123 days. Emergency sheltering is a significant cost to the city and isn’t a viable solution to family homelessness.
There is some indication that a neighbourhood-based approach to preventing family homelessness could work, but there are few examples to draw on. That’s where the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre and its partners want to make a difference. They’re conducting a Solutions Lab in the Vanier-Overbrook neighbourhoods of Ottawa. Their goals are to determine:
- reasons for family homelessness;
- how to re-house families faster;
- how to establish a stable housing pattern; and
- how to offer innovative, tested ideas for reducing family homelessness using neighbourhood level approaches.
Key Findings / Key Goals
Use a neighbourhood-based approach to determine the triggers of family homelessness and effective points of intervention.
Find sustainable neighbourhood-based solutions to prevent family homelessness and rehouse homeless families.
Use lessons learned to scale successful solutions city-wide and apply them in other cities in Canada.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Preventing family homelessness: asking the right questions
The journey into and out of family homelessness is under-researched. Some of the questions this Solutions Lab will try to answer include:
- In a tight housing market (1% vacancy), can highly localized networks identify and secure rental housing more effectively?
- Can working with landlords, tenants and city/community services at a neighbourhood level help avoid and resolve problems before they result in evictions and homelessness?
- Can more effective communications about existing support programs and services lead to their timely and effective use?
- Can support networks help families develop life skills to encourage resiliency and success?
How will the Solutions Lab try to prevent family homelessness?
The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre and its partners will start by bringing together a group of experts and other stakeholders. Their job will be to clarify challenges and propose strategies to make sure the Solutions Lab meets its objectives.
Next, the group will conduct research using existing literature on family homelessness and real stories from families who are in emergency housing. They’ll use these resources to map out the journey into and out of homelessness.
The group will hold workshops to help identify weaknesses in the current interventions offered to homeless families. They will also explore potential solutions for preventing homelessness. They will then test potential solutions.
After launching solutions, the group will evaluate them for effectiveness and scalability, and implement successful solutions in the community.
All solutions will follow “safe-to-fail” methods, meaning that the solutions are tested in a controlled setting. If participating families will be better off using existing resources, new solutions won’t be imposed upon them.
Project Team: RRCRC, VCRC, Community Associations, The Lansdowne Group
Project Name: Addressing Family Homelessness at the Neighbourhood Level
Yacouba Traoré Yacouba.Traore@crcrr.org
Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Project Collaborators / Partners:
Overbrook Community Association
Manor Park Community Association
Vanier Community Association
City of Ottawa, Housing
Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa
Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health
Vanier Community Service Centre
MultiFaith Housing Initiative
Catholic Centre for Immigrants
Eastern ON Landlords Association