Diocese of Ottawa Bishop John Chapman is calling on the federal and Ontario governments to prioritize housing programs, and urging Ontario voters to consider issues of homelessness and affordable housing when casting their ballots in the June 7 provincial election.
In a statement released June 4, Chapman notes that the diocese “operates several affordable housing communities, drop-in day programs, an emergency downtown women’s shelter and counselling services” through its various community ministries. The diocese, he says, is “committed to continuing this support,” and hopes to provide 125 new affordable housing units to celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2021.
However, he says, “We cannot resolve the issues of poverty and homelessness alone. They require major support from all levels of government.”
To effectively support the federal government’s implementation of a National Housing Strategy, Chapman says, Ontario’s provincial government must implement a national housing benefit in the province in addition to existing provincial programs, co-operate with the federal government to “develop a renewed, expanded Homelessness Partnering Strategy” within a year and adequately fund mental health and addiction services.
“In advance of the election, I urge Ottawa voters to discuss the issue of homelessness and affordable housing with their candidates,” says Chapman in his statement.
The statement closely follows a May 31 submission by the diocese of Ottawa to the federal government, advocating a human rights-based approach to housing.
The submission asserts that “the government has adopted an admirable vision” in promoting human rights-based housing, and urges all levels of government to prioritize adoption of the strategy.
The submission also offers several comments on the discussion paper released as part of the National Consultation on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Housing. These include requests to codify the human rights-based approach through legislation and provide protection for Indigenous people and women.
“The government’s legislative proposal to require the maintenance of a National Housing Strategy must extend to the Indigenous National Housing Strategy which remains under development,” the submission reads. It also notes particular concern “that women’s equal right to adequate housing be reflected in all aspects of national housing strategy” because women “have distinct housing experiences and are sometimes impacted disproportionately by the factors that lead to homelessness.”
The submission endorses a recommendation of the Canadian government’s Advisory Committee on Homelessness that the government redraft the definition of homelessness, which must be met for one to receive Housing First services, as the current definition may exclude some women experiencing homelessness.
In his statement, Chapman encourages voters to consider “the most vulnerable in our society, the poor and the homeless” when they go to the polls, and includes a quote from Proverbs 31:8: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Last month, the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, which includes the diocese of Ottawa, published a web page with links to resources dealing with the June 7 election and recommends, in particular, that Ontario Anglicans quiz their candidates on issues of poverty and housing.
The materials are meant “to assist our people and parishes to live into God’s call for a just world where all have enough to flourish,” according to a statement on the web page.