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Housing is a mental health issue


By Roslyn Shields, Senior Policy Analyst at CAMH

Did you know that over 500,000 Canadians with mental illness have inadequate housing? That over 100,000 are homeless?

Every day thousands of people with mental illness sleep in shelters or on the streets. Some live in housing that is unsafe and in disrepair. Others are stuck in hospital because no housing matches their needs.

Many CAMH clients know what inadequate housing feels like. In Toronto, people with mental illness can wait up to seven years for affordable housing and up to five years for supportive housing!

Yet we know that affordable and supportive housing improves people’s quality of life and is integral to recovery. It is also cost effective. That is why, for many years, CAMH has worked with community partners to improve access to housing for our clients and others with mental illness who are homeless or inadequately housed.

CAMH collaborates with 26 local agencies to provide housing and support to over 175 outpatients with complex mental illness, including schizophrenia. We manage housing subsidies for clients living in their own apartments. Our clinical programs have developed partnerships that meet the unique housing needs of older patients, those with developmental delays, substance use histories, and those involved in the justice system.

And that’s not where our work ends. Our research and advocacy has made sure that mental health housing is on the radar at the local and provincial levels.

But our efforts, and the efforts of so many others, can only go so far if we don’t have the support of our Federal Government. That is why the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association is launching a National Week of Action on Housing to make sure that affordable housing is an election issue.

CAMH agrees that all parties must make a commitment to increased and prolonged investment in affordable and supportive housing.  We believe our country needs a National Housing Strategy with a clear vision and measurable targets to ensure that all citizens have a place to call home.  Canadians with mental illness deserve no less.


Header Image courtesy of Marc Brüneke on Flickr

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. This terrible situation ( abandonment of the seriously mentally ill to lack of services, treatment and inevitably to long term homelessness) must be corrected. It has been obvious for three decades since planners moved into magical thinking. The situation has got a great deal worse since I sat on Queen’s Park committees decades ago. Where have the policy people been for decades. Many of them have been living in dreamland listening to those with an agenda which has little to do with helping the seriously mentally ill. They have embraced ideological nonsense. They know who they are. The situation has to be faced honestly and appropriately . It is time to stop listening to those who will not accept that mental illness is a real illness. At the present time there are no cures, but there are treatments that help to stabilize these major conditions and give people afflicted with a chance at some sort of a life. It is time to for planners to accept that people must be given a helping hand and not nonsense strategies endless useless verbiage . It is time to stem the tide of criminalizing the seriously mentally ill. The ensuing mess was entirely predictable , yet the planners policy makers continued dabbling in nonsense. Housing is only part of the problem . Patricia Forsdyke.

    September 23, 2015
  2. The mental “illness” system (dare I speak the truth) is a sad and harmful mix of mostly social ideas instead of attention being paid to the medical nature of SMI. There is scant attention paid to scientific brain research–the organ involved–but lots of the old-time-religion-like studies that propagate earlier myths and misperceptions which continue to confuse our publics, families and even the media.

    So often a childish taunt comes to mind as we are told the fairy tales that many professionals, governments still hold to be true. We wish we could shout “Liar, liar your pants are on fire” in the hope we could be informed about scientific brain research instead of the usual menu of
    social studies.

    Remember Steven Pinker’s words in his The Better Angels of our Nature, where he describes “the usual social science rat’s nest of confounded variables”

    September 23, 2015
    • Research into biological underpinnings of serious medical conditions such as schizophrenia and allied disorders is in fact going on all over the world even at CAMH. It should be painstaking to ensure real findings . This will obviously take time. The job will be to make sure its findings get through to policy makers, who may have to do a real paradigm shift in order to undermine some of the present nonsense. I would say that there are few areas of medicine like psychiatry, still bogged down in hearsay and the like… and even sometimes bad science. Recently we have had the Wakefield and Autism nonsense which is still afloat in certain quarters. Sincerely, Patricia Forsdyke

      September 23, 2015
  3. annick aubert #

    Housing has been mentioned as a mental health issue for the past thirty-five years, Thirty-five years ago various supportive housing programs were devised, they all started with programs for those needing the least support as they were supposedly the more numerous, and also even though it was not mentioned, the more vocal . !!. The advocates for the voiceless were assured that intensive supportive housing would be offered next.
    Thirty-five years later I read in the schematic provided that only 11% of the seriously ill live in adequate housing,which means that 89% of the seriously ill do not get the housing they need.
    Moreover the 11% sometimes share their abode with bedbugs and other pests, In Toronto CAMH Gifts of Light provide some comfort to a few of those, but bare necessities are not always provided.
    Special funding to fill the gap provide for these necessities could easily be raised by volunteers, friends even staff of this institution, this could start a movement across Ontario, and the rest of Canada.

    September 23, 2015
  4. Patricia Forsdyke #

    Annick, I agree that those who are more seriously afflicted are left to circumstances that most of our pets would not be allowed to endure. The owners would be criminally charged for neglect. The mental health system has failed because it has got itself tide up in fluffy unrealistic schemes / crackpot solutions. It has also been led by the nose by the legal system which has mostly not accepted the reality of untreated psychosis, thus pretending that people are choosing to flounder, whereas they are trapped by unbearable inadequately treated symptoms. Jail is home and bed these days for many of these ill people.

    September 26, 2015
  5. annick aubert #

    Harping ?
    Yes I still hope that CAMH families and friends will help moving and comfortably maintaining the seriously ill out of needed crisis beds, .
    Counting only on community organisations to provide for the seriously ill in the community is a delusion !!!

    October 3, 2015
  6. Patricai Forsdyke #

    The government of Ontario is not interested in acting on the Bi-partison Select committee report. That is very clear.

    November 10, 2015

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