Under the leadership of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, an in-person stakeholder engagement process is taking place across Ontario on the topic of supportive housing.
Led by Associate Minister of Housing Michael Parsa, the government held a series of consultations in communities across the province to discuss how to improve the supportive housing system. Representatives from CMHA branches across the province, including CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville, attended these roundtable discussions to share insights on the value of new investments in supportive housing for mental health. Supportive housing must be increased in tandem with increasing affordable housing.
Supportive housing is a highly effective strategy that combines affordable housing with intensive coordinated services that help people who need support to live full and productive lives in their communities. For those with mental health and addiction issues, supportive housing is particularly necessary to support and maintain recovery.
In Ontario, lack of investments in this sector has resulted in inadequate supply and long wait lists. In Toronto alone, the number of individuals waiting for supportive housing is 23,439. Of the total number of people waiting for supportive housing in Canada’s largest city, 54 per cent, or more than 12,650 people, are currently homeless. Municipalities are experiencing exceptional demands on shelters and temporary accommodations. Encampments and tent cities are emerging as people who are homeless or precariously housed have nowhere else to go.
Research shows that people are less likely to use hospitals and other costly emergency services when they have a stable place to live. For every $10 invested in supportive housing there is a $21.72 savings in reduced emergency room visits. Additionally, developing one residential supportive housing unit is estimated to generate between two and two-and-a-half new jobs that will also help support post-pandemic economic recovery.
CMHA branches are providing care to the most vulnerable people in their communities each and every day and are best equipped to provide the most valuable insight into the needs of the community members they serve – insights that are crucial to informing policy like this. Lack of housing is often at the top of the list of needs.
The stability of a home and availability of support services when needed are the foundation for better health outcomes – this is also the foundation for a more cost-effective healthcare system.
CMHA Ontario will continue to consult on this important issue with the government. To learn more about the impact of supportive housing across health and social systems, read our brief on Housing First.