Study: Housing First Approach Sustainable

Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)

Nine out of 12 programs implemented during the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) At Home/Chez Soi Research Demonstration Project on mental health and homelessness have successfully transitioned from research to real world.

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This is the conclusion of a MHCC sustainability study released November 29 in Moncton. The study provides unique insight into what is needed to ensure this innovative research is translated into mainstream services, tracking the Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver programs after the At Home/Chez Soi project ended in 2014.

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. This research proved that Housing First works to rapidly end homelessness for people experiencing mental illness and is a smart economic investment.

The sustainability study shows that although all programs have experienced some reduction in funding, participants continue to receive client-centred services and supports from multi-disciplinary teams. In some locations the level of support has been reduced and key positions such as housing coordinators lost.

“Housing First in Canada has shown significant uptake since the end of At Home/Chez Soi, but those gains will remain fragile unless we address the funding and policy issues that are barriers to adopting this 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.

For instance, access to rent subsidies and their administration—often by a different ministry than is responsible for delivering clinical services —is problematic.

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. Winnipeg has used this new funding to expand Housing First across the city.

Three reports were released including an overall report on the sustainability of all programs established during At Home/Chez Soi, a detailed sustainability report on the Moncton site and a report on the policy impacts of At Home/Chez Soi post-research.