Building on Collaboration: Learnings from Toronto’s Supportive Housing System

Wellesley Institute

Executive Summary

Mental health supportive housing relies on municipal-health sector collaboration. It straddles the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) mandate of coordinating integrated local health systems and the municipal responsibility for local housing and homelessness initiatives.

In recent years, municipalities and LHINs have initiated collaborative work to address the overlap of their roles in supportive housing. However, the ongoing transformation of Ontario’s health system presents obstacles for sustaining this collaboration. Sector reorganization can cause uncertainty about responsibilities and disruptions to collaborative projects.

For health system transformation to strengthen existing supportive housing collaboration, rather than diminish it, it will be important to apply the lessons learned to date about effective intersectoral collaboration. This project explores case studies of municipal-health collaboration in supportive housing in Toronto and captures the strengths and challenges experienced by collaborators. Learnings from these case studies can inform supportive housing collaboration under new coordination structures.

Interviews with key informants from the municipal, health, and community mental health sectors produced three central themes. The first theme focused on relationship building and system planning among senior leadership. The second theme focused on the delivery of joint supportive housing interventions through community agencies. The third theme drew these dimensions of collaboration together to discuss connections between the system and service delivery levels.

The findings of this project emphasize the importance of viewing intersectoral collaboration at the system level and the service delivery level as interrelated components of the supportive housing system. With a growing context of collaboration and strong agreement on population health priorities, recent progress on supportive housing can be carried forward in the ongoing priority-setting and planning of the health system. Opportunities for collaboration in supportive housing are timely. Ontario’s recent funding commitments in mental health and the City of Toronto’s Housing TO 2020-2030 Action Plan encourage collaboration across governments on supportive housing. Coordination of these intersectoral opportunities can facilitate an expansion of Toronto’s supportive housing system that optimizes resources and enacts a common vision for health in the City

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