Ending Homelessness Among People with Mental Illness Using a Housing First Approach is Sustainable
A Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) sustainability study, released today, finds that nine out of 12 programs implemented during the MHCC's ground-breaking At Home/Chez Soi Research Demonstration Project on mental health and homelessness have made the transition from research to real world. At Home/Chez Soi used a Housing First approach with participants offered immediate access to housing of their choice through rent subsidies and access to mental health services and supports, all without preconditions.
The sustainability study provides unique insight into what is needed to ensure innovative research is translated into mainstream services. This study tracks the Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver programs after the At Home/Chez Soi project ended in 2014.
"Today we celebrate what we've learned that will help address people's needs," said Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO, at the report launch in Moncton. "This sustainability study is a valuable roadmap. It tells us what is working well and flags what still needs to be done to ensure Housing First becomes a mainstream option to serve some of Canada's most vulnerable people."
At Home/Chez Soi demonstrated that Housing First works to rapidly end homelessness for people experiencing mental illness—within months instead of years—the majority staying housed with an improved quality of life and connection to their community. It also proved that this approach is a sound investment, with every $10 invested in Housing First services resulting in an average savings of $9.60 for participants with high needs and $3.42 for participants with moderate needs.
Although all programs experienced some reduction in funding during the shift from research to real world, participants continued to receive client-centred services and supports from multi-disciplinary teams. In some locations the level of support was reduced and key positions such as housing coordinators were lost.
"Housing First in Canada has shown significant uptake since the end of the At Home/Chez Soi project, but those gains will remain fragile unless we address the funding and policy issues that are barriers to adopting a Housing First approach as a mainstream solution to homelessness and mental illness," says Dr. Tim Aubrey, Co-Principal Investigator of the Moncton site and a member of the At Home/Chez Soi National Research Team.
Some policies have already been adjusted nationally, provincially and locally. In 2014, the federal government revised the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) to focus a significant portion of these funds on the development of Housing First. In Moncton, the At Home/Chez Soi experience with the service model led to an expansion of services with plans to implement mental health teams across New Brunswick, something new to the province. In Winnipeg, Housing First has been expanded across the city.
"Strong leadership and partnerships at the federal, provincial, municipal and community levels as well as across health and housing sectors have been crucial to the continuation and expansion of the Housing First programs begun under At Home/Chez Soi," said Louise Bradley. "Long-term collaboration between all these partners is essential for people to benefit."
- The At Home/Chez Soi Project: Cross-Site Report on the Sustainability of Housing and Support Programs Implemented
- The At Home/Chez Soi Project: Sustainability of Housing & Support Programs Implemented at the Moncton Site
- The At Home/Chez Soi Project: Moving Evidence into Policy The Story of the At Home/Chez Soi Initiative's Impact on Federal Homelessness Policy in Canada
More on At Home/Chez Soi: http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/at-home
THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
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