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World Homeless Day highlights the importance of housing for health


October 10 is World Homeless Day and CMHA Waterloo Wellington is reminding the community that housing is key to the recovery of many people with mental health issues.

According to a 2016 report on homelessness, at least 235,000 people experience homelessness in a year across Canada and nearly 35,000 are homeless every night. The consequences of homelessness tend to be more severe when coupled with a mental health condition. Individuals with serious mental health conditions frequently identify income and housing as the most important factors in achieving and maintaining their health. For many, finding and maintaining safe and affordable housing is difficult.

CMHA Waterloo Wellington offers Supportive Housing, a recovery-based service that combines support with housing to promote successful tenancies.

“We can help [people] along that road to recovery,” says Steve Jones, Housing Coordinator at CMHA WW. “Whether [a person is dealing with] mental health or an addiction, housing stability is absolutely critical.”

CMHA supports the ‘Housing First’ model, a person-centred approach that provides immediate access to permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, without requiring psychiatric treatment or sobriety as determinants of ‘housing readiness’. Research on this approach shows that it reduces hospitalization and increases housing stability significantly more than treatment alone.

In addition to aiding with recovery, housing designed for people with mental health conditions can contribute to significant cost savings for the health system. It costs approximately $486 a day ($177,390 per year) to keep a person in a psychiatric hospital, compared to $72 per day ($26,280 per year) to house the same person in the community with supports. Housing with supports includes a range of housing options: supportive housing, supported housing, and rent supplements.

In partnership with other stakeholders, CMHA Ontario continues its efforts to promote the need for housing in general and supportive housing in particular for people with lived experience of mental illness. CMHA Ontario has called for increased investments in housing, as well as the need to reduce barriers to housing as one way to reduce the overall costs to health care, police and justice, and social services sectors.

For more information on World Homeless Day, visit their website.

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