Discussion on homelessness being derailed by complaints of neighbors

A recent story by the Ottawa Citizen details a landlord on Murray Street posting crude posters aimed at the Shepherds of Good Hope homeless shelter.

They interviewed the landlord, who voiced his frustration at the shelter, claiming it has lowered his property value, and as a result has made his property impossible to sell, citing examples of his neighbours selling to him in order to get out of the neighbourhood.

The article focuses on the difficulties he’s had renting to tenants, and turns the take-down of these morally degrading posters into the landlord crying bully, claiming he’s the real victim in this situation,instead of, you know, the people at this shelter who have been pushed into homelessness by a variety of terrible factors.

These are human beings who now have to deal with a neighbour who puts up crude posters aimed at their presence. A neighbour who, according to the executive director at the shelter, has been abusive to staff and residents over the years, and has not been open to a civil conversation.

This article, while not surprising, is distracting from the major discussion that needs to be had around homelessness, and the change that needs to occur in this city. There is a severe lack of sufficient affordable housing in Ottawa, which is a major factor in these homeless shelters turning into long-term options for residents—because they are the only option.

Especially now with the “redevelopment” of the Heron Gate community (wherein approximately 400 residents have had to leave their homes), there is a greater need for affordable housing for lower- to mid-income people. Developers are focused on building up these once working-class neighbourhoods into condos and luxury houses, building McMansions on top of what once were cozy community based homes.

Rather than introduce more affordable housing options, however, or at least discuss other long-term solutions,, the city has approved the construction of a bigger Salvation Army shelter, leading residents of the neighborhood to once again  voice their frustration.

Obviously, there is a need for a larger shelter to provide services for homeless people in the area. What I’m concerned with is the lack of affordable housing available to these residents once they access the resources they need and want to move out of the shelter. This lack of affordable housing restricts their upward mobility and gives them very few options besides staying in the system.

Inevitably, this will mean another, larger shelter will be built to accommodate newly homeless people as well as the ones who never had the chance to leave. And again, residents of the neighbourhood will be upset about property value. And again, the Citizen will miss the point.