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Study: 'Housing First' approach helps to end homelessness

April 8, 2014
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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New research findings were recently released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) that underscore the effectiveness of the 'Housing First' approach to ending homelessness amongst people with mental illness. The research was released at an event that featured Candice Bergen, Minister of State (Social Development) and Canada's mental health leaders.

"At Home/Chez Soi shows us that this approach works in Canada. A house is so much more than a roof over one's head. It represents dignity, security, and, above all, hope," said Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. "We are proud to collaborate with our valued partners to lead this work. These kinds of bold solutions are the hallmark of our mandate.

"Providing permanent, secure housing," she added, "does more than keep a person off the streets and out of shelters, it provides a base from which to move forward. It creates hope where none existed. That's the import of Housing First."

At Home/Chez Soi was created in 2008 as a result of a $110 million investment from the Government of Canada. Demonstration sites included Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal, and Moncton, and involved more than 2,000 Canadians with mental illness experiencing homelessness. Key findings from the study include:

  • Demonstrated housing stability for program participants in all regions of the country over a two-year period;
  • Program effectiveness for people from diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds and circumstances;
  • For highest service users, Housing First has proven particularly cost-effective with every $10 invested resulting in cost-savings of $21.72.

At least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness annually, with 30,000 Canadians homeless on any given night. The issue of homelessness costs the Canadian economy $7 billion each year.

Canada is a world-leader when it comes to the Housing First approach. While the model originated in New York City through the Pathways to Housing project, the MHCC has continued to grow the international profile of Housing First with the development of a Chez Soi initiative in France and the development of a Housing First conference in Portugal. At Home/Chez Soi was also featured at the recent Chicago International Housing First Conference and at the fall 2013 European Union Housing First Conference.

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