Canada adopts housing first strategy to address homelessness

Posted on April 10, 2014 in Child & Family Policy Context – 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.

< >

Tags: , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014 at 11:04 am and is filed under Child & Family Policy Context. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “Canada adopts housing first strategy to address homelessness”

  1. In a perfect world, the solution to homelessness would be to provide housing to those in need. The Housing First initiative seems too good to be true. Indeed, there is disconnect between what was intended for the program and how it is implemented. First, it is naïve to assume that a program is going to work similarly in all housing markets. There are cities with limited safe, affordable housing, resulting in at-risk populations being placed in substandard living situations. Furthermore, this program is highly reliant on cooperation with landlords, many of which will not pay to improve their facilities and demand higher premiums from the government to take Housing First recipients over the general public. The fact that Housing First is essentially an emergency response to homelessness means that services are offered on an emergency basis as well. Since placement is not dependent on being connected to services first, workers are placing individuals without much assessment. Additionally, what will sustainability look like for this project? Will it be funded until the Conservatives are re-elected and they decide that it is too expensive? And what will happen to the people that are being evicted by landlords for issues stemming from addictions, mental illness, and trauma? The bottom line is that this cannot be the be-all and end-all for solving homelessness. Tenants should be connected to agencies that provide services and education similar to transitional housing. Addressing the standard of living in the housing units is also key. Systematically, we need to investigate how the housing market, and society as a whole, are failing low income individuals, and how more affordable housing in the future can become a reality.

  2. Proofreader says:

    Ummm, “She announced Ottawa will invest $600 into the Homelessness Partnering Strategy over the next five years.” $600 over five years is only $10 a month. They must mean $600 MILLION.


Leave a Reply