City of Ottawa in talks with province on getting “fair share” of homelessness funding

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Provincial government increases Peterborough homelessness budget by $2.5 million
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TORONTO — The City of Ottawa and the province are in talks after Ontario decided to give the nation’s capital less than $1 million in new money for homelessness.

Housing Minister Steve Clark told Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe in a letter on April 28 that Ottawa was receiving a smaller portion of the new funding aimed at redressing homelessness across the province because the city received too much in previous allocations.

The province has announced a $202-million annual boost to homelessness funding over three years.

Ottawa is set to receive $845,100 annually from that new pot, bringing its yearly funds to deal with homelessness to $48.5 million.

Clark’s office said Ottawa still ranks second in the province in terms of total homelessness funding from the province.

It sits far behind Toronto, which is set to receive $217 million of the annual $695 million in the Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supportive Housing Program. From the new pot, Toronto is slated to get $48 million.

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Province increases much needed homeless support in Durham Region

Ottawa’s mayor has asked the province to review its decision, noting it has a funding gap of $37 million to maintain current service levels for those experiencing homelessness.

“I am continuing to communicate closely and regularly with senior leaders in the provincial government to ensure Ottawa’s specific needs are understood and we receive our fair share of funding,” Sutcliffe said this week.

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The province said they are listening.

“We are continuing to engage with Ottawa to ensure the city’s unique housing and homelessness-related needs are addressed,” said Victoria Podbielski, a spokeswoman for Clark.

Homelessness hit all areas of the province hard during the pandemic.

Encampments have cropped up in cities big and small, from Ottawa to Toronto to Kitchener, Kingston and Sudbury. Police in several cities have cleared those encampments in violent clashes with those living there and their supporters. Food banks across the province have reported record-breaking numbers of people needing help.

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Cities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars during the pandemic putting people in hotels.

Ottawa’s mayor wrote to Premier Doug Ford on April 24 asking him to ensure the city “gets its fair share of critical investments” the province is making on homelessness.

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Harsh reality of those navigating Toronto’s shelter system, on brink of homelessness

Sutcliffe said Ottawa should have received $16 million to $18 million from the new money based on what the province gave Toronto.

“Like Toronto, our homeless population includes many individuals with high acuity needs,” Sutcliffe wrote. “Smaller, nearby municipalities send their highest acuity unhoused individuals to our city. We are doing all we can to support them, but it’s impossible to do so without adequate operational funding.”

The shortfall will force Ottawa to cancel 54 supportive housing units that were set to become operational within 18 months and it will not be able to build upwards of 850 new affordable housing options every year, he said.

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The province recently changed its funding model, combining several homelessness funds into one.

Clark told Sutcliffe the new model is partly in response to “serious concerns raised by” the auditor general in 2021.

“This audit concluded that previous allocations of homelessness funding were based on outdated data, did not accurately reflect local need and, on occasion, lacked any evidence to justify spending decisions,” Clark wrote.

“The revised funding model ensures that all Ontario residents will have equal access to the province’s substantially increased homelessness prevention funding, rather than advantaging any one community at the expense of the others.”

This week, three Ottawa provincial legislators at Queen’s Park called on Ford to reverse course.

“Doug Ford is abandoning the City of Ottawa and its residents,” interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said Tuesday.

The city says it has asked the province to share the formula used to determine the new funding levels.

“A more thorough understanding of the exact calculation data, in addition to applicable adjustments to the final allocations, is required to understand how Ottawa’s allocation compares with other communities and evaluate the fairness as it relates to need,” said Paul Lavigne, director of housing with the city.

“To date, the city has not received the requested clarification from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.”

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The province said it has given Ottawa the metrics used to calculate funding levels.

In a report prepared for Ottawa city council on the province’s allocation of total funding for homelessness, the city is receiving a 1.8 per cent increase.

Toronto has received a 28.4 per cent increase while Manitoulin-Sudbury district gets a 202.6 per cent boost while Sault Ste Marie, Ont., will get a 177.1 per cent increase.

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