Emergency Shelter in Ottawa-Carleton
An Experimental View

Year Published:  1984  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX3008

Abstract:  This paper presents the observation and recommendations of one worker at an Ottawa day shelter. The paper can be read as a companion piece to CX3009 and CX3007. The author traces back to 1978 the first consicous awareness in Ottawa that the users of available hostels were no longer transient but were long-term users. For example, the client population of the Anglican Social Services 454 (a day centre for multi-problem, socially disable people) changedd from an initial group of unemployed single men (many with alcohol-related problems) to a larger number with psychiatric disabilities, and others who often remained on the streets at night. Currently, services in the Ottawa shelter-support system are serving growing numbers of single women, single displaced young people, couples, families and the chronically psychiatrically disabled, as well as the single male alcoholic and transients. The largest increases, the author observes, seem to be in women and people aged 15-30.

The traditional family-home model for meeting individuals' practical survival needs (food, shelter, hygiene) and their emotional needs for warmth, support and caring, no longer exist for these people, the author notes. The result of this "health and soul destroying" lifestyle is that tensions build up, with violent outbursts and problematic behaviours that shelter workers must cope with.

King notes that viewing the situaiton as merely a temporary problem of "shelter" is misguided in light of the economic unemployment, social and housing crisis indicators which point to long-term structural problems. Since "the current situaiton of service delivery seems to perpetuate the homeless situation for many people" (many of them with multiple problems), it needs to be re-evaulated. Also needed are ways to assess how many and who needs help. Expecting direct care workers to take on this task may not be reasonable in light of their workloads, yet these workers should be included in the planning process to address the problems. The author suggests that, in Ottawa's case, the local Social Planning Council take on co-ordination and planning. Some steps have already been taken in this direction. King also suggests an approach for allocating current and future funding.

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