Reprinted from "Housing and Homelessness" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 4 (1), p. 3
"They don't need spare change, they need social change."
—US 'homelessness czar' Philip Mangano during a recent BC visit
Housing is fundamental to mental health. A decent, affordable, safe and private space - a home - to call your own can be so easy to take for granted. Having it doesn't make life perfect, but it's hard to work on other parts of your life, including managing a mental illness, without it.
As someone who has been involved with Visions since 1999, I can say on behalf of our team that this has perhaps been the hardest issue to put together - the most complex and the most poignant. We have been overwhelmed with stories from people in the field, but even more by people who have been or are currently homeless and their loved ones. Most have never written for Visions before and are excited to share their often painful, frequently hope-filled journeys with us. And if there were any doubts, in this issue you will see first-hand the inter-relationships between trauma/abuse, mental health problems and substance use problems; between income, employment and housing; between victimization and criminalization. And the little things - the common-sense innovations and approaches and values - that are giving so much hope to so many trying to survive on the fringes of our communities.
Even for those who live with mental illness and/or addictions, if we've never been on the margins ourselves, it can become safe to think of people who are homeless as 'the other.' Oh no, not like me. Couldn't happen to me. Even humanity gets lost: people with very diverse and complex needs tend to get lumped together in the media and at the water cooler as 'the homeless' or 'the mentally ill' or 'the addict.' I hope the stories in this issue open our collective eyes and challenge this common us-and-them thinking.
Finally, I'd like to extend a huge thank you to our outgoing Policy Editor, Christina Martens, who has been an invaluable help these past two years and lives the values of Visions in her daily work at CMHA on Vancouver Island. I'm pleased she will continue on our Editorial Board. I'd also like to introduce two others whom our contributors know well, but readers may not: our Structural Editor, Vicki McCullough and our new Editorial Assistant, Megan Dumas. It's an amazing team to be a part of. We look forward to your letters on what I feel is, in many ways, a landmark issue of Visions Journal.