In Lowertown, there are several unique and desirable features – the retail shops, the restaurants, heritage homes, families, residents, and work environments along with some of the best urban spaces and parks.
And within this urban neighbourhood, we are also faced with the challenges that can come from the concentration of services and of emergency shelters.
The challenge is amplified with the warm weather. Add a pandemic in the mix, and we are faced with challenges unlike some we have ever encountered.
This is not to say these challenges weren’t there in the first place – they were.
Drug use and dealing; Insufficient and uncoordinated housing investments; Lack of effective and coordinated immediate mental health response and supports;
Ottawa is facing BIG city problems, and in this case, they are concentrated in one area of our City.
Perspectives on the situation are diverse. Residents, clients, businesses, social services staff, tourism – they all speak to their realities facing the community. The time has come to align on actions that will bring relief and that will advance meaningful solutions.
I am certainly committed to advancing these meaningful and permanent solutions.
I have identified three key actions that I believe will bring relief. I am looking for all to be focused on:
- Advancing 24/7 on the ground City presence: coordinating outreach services and mental health responses, integrating urgent housing response to encampments, responding to drug dealing and drug use in the community, organizing needle hunters, and integrating the Ottawa Police Neighbourhood Resource Team
- We need to see a doubling of funding for the Safe Supply program. A program that went from a pilot of 25 users to now 355 has shown its success, but the need is much greater. The focus should be to ensure that everyone has a safe supply. Safe supply removes many of the drug use impacts in our community. A clean prescribed drug means no need to commit petty crime to pay for illicit drugs, no need to access from dealers, and reduces the sometimes-deadly effects of these illicit drugs.
- We need to invest in permanent housing. We need to flood the City, and every community with affordable housing investments under the Housing First and Supportive Housing models. We need to rethink the old model, close temporary shelters by attrition, and open doors to homes.
I will remain relentless in my efforts to advance these strategies.
These solutions also require engagement from all elected officials including Council and provincial and federal colleagues of our Capital City.
With everyone working on the same resolution, advancing on the same goals, we can see progress and regain a proper balance in our community.