The federal government chose Canada’s largest city as the backdrop for its recent announcement of its Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). Ottawa is giving Torontoan additional $86 million to support homelessness prevention and reduction initiatives. It’s welcome news in a city where nearly 9,000 people are waiting for supportive housing and many waiting for over five years to get subsidized housing. The HPS is a community-based program that is providing funding to 61 designated communities across Canada that have a significant problem with homelessness to help them address this issue using a Housing First approach. This includes 20 communities in Ontario. All 61 communities’ plans, homeless counts and other reports are featured on the Homeless Hub website.
Housing First is evidence-based ‘best practice’ approach has seen successful outcomes in multiple pilot sites across Canada and other developed countries. It ensures that homeless individuals – many of whom are people with mental illnesses or dealing with addictions issues – gain access to immediate housing followed by additional supports to help them in all areas of their lives.
Until recently, the most common approach to homelessness in Canada has been the “crisis-based” model, which relies on shelters and other emergency interventions. This approach has proven to be costly and ineffective over the long term.
Research shows that without stable housing, it is much more difficult to participate in treatment or recovery programs or to manage mental and physical health issues. This was demonstrated by a well-known study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. This study also showed that Housing First is a rapid and cost effective approach to ending homelessness for people experiencing mental illness.