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Alcohol & Other Drugs

Editor's Message

Sarah Hamid-Balma

Reprinted from "Supported Housing" issue of Visions Journal, 2017, 12 (3), p. 4

This issue will remind you just how central our homes, supported by the right people, are to our well-being. When we asked for submissions, I was contacted by several people who couldn’t contribute but desperately wanted to know more about supported housing. ‘Wow,’ I kept hearing. ‘This thing called supported housing sounds amazing … How can I get it?’ I don’t care if you call it housing with supports, supported or supportive housing, housing, SIL, Housing First, damp/wet housing or low-barrier housing—it’s clear the need for it is great.

Reading this issue, you will experience that wow. You will be struck—even overwhelmed—by the hope, potential and transformations in the stories. There are many moments when I got a lump in my throat at the seemingly simple things that gave people back their identity, security, dignity and purpose.

A safe, stable and affordable place to call home is becoming elusive for a whole lot of British Columbians—never mind those with health challenges. And some sense of choice in where we live is also getting harder, too. And choice is kind of a big deal. I wonder how many people were surprised to learn in the landmark At Home/Chez Soi study1 that—guess what?—most people with a mental illness and/or addiction want what anyone else wants: to live in diverse neighbourhoods in their own places and not co-located in one building. If you’re going to provide supported housing, it’s certainly cheaper to have a person follow the support rather than the support follow the person. But consider this outcome from a recent Vancouver study: 40% of homeless people with schizophrenia were taking their antipsychotic medications; the group of people housed in a supported building with others with schizophrenia increased to 61% for medication-taking; but of those who lived in scattered apartments and had mobile support, 80% of them were taking their medications by the end of the study.1 That’s just one outcome, of course. There are many examples that tell us that supported housing is great, but supported housing with client choice is best.

That approach is found in Housing First. Housing First may seem expensive initially, but according to the At Home/Chez Soi study, for every $10 invested in Housing First services, there is an average savings of $21.72 from reduced hospital, medical, police/justice costs.2 I wish we could add the savings to self-worth, too.

 
About the author

Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division

Footnotes:
  1. Rezansoff, S.N., Moniruzzaman, A., Fazel, S., McCandless, L., Procyshyn, R. & Somers, J.M. (2016). Housing First Improves Adherence to Antipsychotic Medication Among Formerly Homeless Adults With Schizophrenia: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbw136

  2. Goering, P., Veldhuizen, S., Watson, A., Adair, C., Kopp, B., Latimer, E., Nelson, G., Macnaughton, E., Streiner, D. & Aubry, T. (2014). National At Home/Chez Soi Final Report. Calgary, AB: Mental Health Commission of Canada. http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/at-home

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