Canada adopts housing first strategy to address homelessness
MetroNews.ca – news/vancouver
April 8, 2014. By Matt Kieltyka
Canada has officially adopted the Housing First strategy for tackling homelessness and mental illness after a convincing study was made public Tuesday.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada unveiled the results of it’s At Home/Chez Soi program, proving that placing homeless people with mental health issues into stable housing is not just the most effective way to address homelessness, it’s also the most cost-effective.
The study found that 62 per cent of patients provided with immediate access to permanent housing stayed housed by the end of the two-year program, while only 31 per cent of people not housed were able to get themselves out of homelessness.
Another 22 per cent of participants that received housing first were reported to retain stable housing “some of the time” even if they didn’t stay in permanent housing throughout the entire duration of the study.
The commission also found that every $10 invested in housing first services resulted in an average savings of $21.72 in health care, policing, judicial, social services and other societal costs.
The Housing First model has long been touted in Vancouver, with the city officially partnering on the project by providing space for supportive housing for 100 participants.
“The results of the project provide one of the strongest confirmations to date that a ‘Housing First’ approach is fundamental to ending homelessness and confronting the challenges of mental illness and addiction,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a statement. “We’ve made important progress on Vancouver’s homelessness action plan, and I want to ensure we see it though. The success of the Housing First model shows that we’re on the right track.”
The study’s biggest legacy, however, may be getting the federal government on board.
Minister of social development Candice Bergen announced the nation (which contributed $110 million into the At Home project from 2008-2013) was officially adopting housing first as policy beginning this month.
“We now have strong evidence that Housing First is an effective way to reduce homelessness,” said Bergen.
She announced Ottawa will invest $600 into the Homelessness Partnering Strategy over the next five years.
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