Saturday, October 3, 2015

Advocacy: Solutions to Homelessness for those with mental health issues

There's A Solution For Mental Health Homelessness In Canada -- But It Needs Help

Excerpt below. Read the whole article at the link above.

"I don't think they understand what I’m dealing with. I just don't want people to feel sorry for me. Right now, I have a lot of shame, shame and pain. And this is what no mother wants."

Samantha Bowens is a 37-year-old single mother. She moved to Toronto from the island of St. Vincent when she was 17, and other than a sojourn to Saskatoon with her husband before their marriage broke down, this city has been her home. She lives with her daughters, Daniella, 15, and Sarah, 2, in an apartment building downtown near Trinity Bellwoods Park.

But it's not just any apartment. It is run by Houselink Community Homes, a non-profit supportive housing organization that goes beyond affordable accommodation. Houselink also provides a range of other services, from problem-solving to community-building for their tenants, all of whom are struggling with mental health issues.

Supportive housing is not a particularly well-known concept in Canada. It’s like affordable housing in some ways — there is rental assistance, and there are not enough units — but it’s geared toward people struggling with mental illness, so support services are also provided.

Toronto has 5,063 mental health supportive housing units and 9,885 people on the waiting list, up from about 900 in 2009. The Access Point, which co-ordinates the city’s mental health and addictions support services, estimates that 400 supportive housing vacancies come up annually. (An additional 9,000 people with mental illness are in traditional social housing without supports.)

The Canadian Mental Health Association told HuffPost Canada it would cost about $150 million to house those waitlisted people with rental and social support services.

A Mental Health Commission of Canada report found there were about 25,000 supportive housing units across the country. These range from Supportive Housing of Waterloo, which runs a 30-unit apartment as well as a hoarder outreach program, and Homeward Trust Edmonton, which recently opened the 21-unit Iris Court for people with schizophrenia, to Nova Scotia’s Tawaak Housing, which owns and operates two six-unit apartments for homeless aboriginal people, to Vancouver’s McLaren Housing, which cut the ribbon in July on a 12-storey complex that adds another 110 units to the mix.

That report also found that Canada needs a minimum of 100,000 units — or four times what we have now — to handle the 120,000 homeless and 520,000 "inadequately housed" people living with mental illness.

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