Addressing homelessness

Ottawa's homeless people

Most homeless people in Ottawa are men, women, youth and children who have lost their homes because they have either suffered abuse, lost their jobs, faced unmanageable living expenses or have mental health or addiction problems. Others are newcomers to the city who cannot find affordable housing.

In addition to the people who fill emergency shelters each night, there may be from 16 to 45 people sleeping outside. Typically, such individuals will be spending some nights that month in emergency shelters, some "couch surfing" (staying with friends or family, often in very overcrowded conditions), and perhaps some as tenants of private market housing such as rooming houses.

Hundreds of other people are at risk of becoming homeless, including those in households that pay 70 per cent or more of their income for rent, as well as those living in unsafe rental units.

Housing services for homeless people

The City of Ottawa Housing Branch funds community agencies that, in turn, help homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless. This collaborative effort has developed into a system of services that ranges from preventing homelessness to helping people find permanent housing.

  • Emergency shelters - the City of Ottawa subsidizes approximately 1,000 shelter spaces in two City-operated family shelters, eight community shelters and overflow facilities as needed. Shelter operators provide a variety of services including meals, shelter and case management, ensuring that all clients are assessed and referred to the social and health services they need. Each shelter has a housing support worker to help clients find long-term housing and settle into the community. No one who needs emergency shelter is turned away. If all the shelters are full, the City arranges for alternative emergency accommodation.
  • Support services - Funding from all levels of government is used to help community partners provide street outreach services and tenant support in supportive and social housing and in rooming houses. There is also a network of housing loss prevention workers throughout the community, as well as two agencies that provide assistance in finding affordable permanent housing.
  • Outreach – The City also funds a number of homelessness outreach teams whose functions include helping people who are on the street to access emergency shelters and to obtain housing.

Action plan on homelessness

Serving people with special needs in residential care

The City subsidizes 900 clients in 29 domiciliary hostel care facilities in Ottawa. They range in size from 20 to 170 beds, and provide care for people who are elderly, frail or have special needs that require residential care. These homes provide direct and easy access to both health care and other community resources.

The City of Ottawa will continue to focus on building the community's capacity to better meet the needs of homeless people. New funding will be used to increase the number of transitional and affordable housing units that include supports to help residents live as independently as possible. Learn more

The City of Ottawa is committed to making sure that the number of homeless families and individuals is reduced. At the same time the City will ensure that homeless people receive the services they need. Learn more in the action plan on homelessness.

Alliance to End Homelessness

The Alliance to End Homelessness is a broad-based community-led initiative aimed at ending homelessness in Ottawa. The Alliance to End Homelessness brings together community groups, individuals - including homeless persons, governments and the private and voluntary sectors to address the problems of homelessness in Ottawa.

Getting involved

You can make a difference to address homelessness in Ottawa. Get involved by:

  • Donating to the Community Foundation Homelessness Fund
  • Volunteering at the Volunteer Centre of Ottawa
  • Donating to the United Way
  • Raising the Roof - a national charity dedicated to finding long-term solutions to the growing problem of homelessness in Canada
  • Share the Warmth - a registered, not-for-profit charity that purchases heat and energy on behalf of families, seniors, chronically ill and persons with disabilities living at or near the poverty level

More information

For more information about housing-related services for homeless people in Ottawa, call 3-1-1 or email

Find more information and resources about homelessness.