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Mental Health

Supportive Housing in British Columbia

BC Housing options and outreach

Danielle Scott and Erin Smandych, BC Housing 

Visions Journal, 2017, 12 (3), p. 22

Stable housing is a key factor of good health. The Province of British Columbia offers supportive housing options through BC Housing, a provincial government agency.

What is supportive housing?

Many people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness—some of whom have mental illnesses or addictions—are finding places to live in supportive housing developments. Supportive housing is subsidized housing managed by non-profit housing societies that provide ongoing non-clinical supports and services to residents.

BC Housing works with non-profit societies and municipal governments to develop a range of supportive housing options. To be eligible for supported housing, an individual must be a low-income adult who is homeless or at risk of homelessness and who requires support services to achieve a successful tenancy. Support services may include 24/7 staffing, life skills training, employment preparation, meal programs and referrals to other community resources. Tenants pay rent based on their income or a flat rate established by the housing society for the particular housing development.

The application process

People can apply to BC Housing’s supportive housing programs in various ways.

The Supportive Housing Registration (SHR) application and registration service provides a single point of access for supportive housing that is funded through BC Housing. The goal is to facilitate the transition from homelessness to supportive housing by allowing applicants and the agencies supporting them to submit only one application rather than registering with multiple providers.

The SHR application form is available on the BC Housing website (www.bchousing.org), at BC Housing offices and from many non-profit housing providers. (Some non-profit housing providers also operate emergency shelters or outreach programs; these programs may be the first point of contact for people in need of supportive housing.)

Lists of supportive housing developments in the Lower Mainland and other areas of the province are available on the BC Housing website.* If you already know of a supportive housing development in your community, you can ask the non-profit housing provider about it directly.

Housing programs with supports

Below are some additional types of housing with supports.

1. Subsidized Assisted Living

Assisted living helps bridge the gap between home care and residential care. Subsidized assisted living units are available through Independent Living BC. These residences are for seniors and people with disabilities who require some support but do not need 24-hour institutional care.

Support includes hospitality services such as meals, housekeeping, laundry, recreational opportunities and 24-hour emergency response. It also includes personal care services such as assistance with grooming, mobility and medications. Tenants pay 70% of their after-tax income, plus a hydroelectricity surcharge.

To be considered for assisted living, candidates must be referred through their local health authority. You can learn more about subsidized assisted living at www.bchousing.org/Initiatives/Creating/ILBC.

Applying for subsidized assisted living

Individuals cannot apply directly to a subsidized assisted living development. Admission to these facilities is the responsibility of the health authority. If you are a current client of health services at home, discuss your options with your case manager. If you are not a current client, speak to your doctor or contact your local regional health authority.

2. The Addiction Recovery Program 

BC Housing provides 93 units of transitional supportive housing to people in recovery from problematic substance use. (In general, transitional housing is housing that is provided for a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of two to three years.)

The BC Housing Addiction Recovery Program is an 18-month program available in the Vancouver Coastal Health and the Fraser Health regions to individuals who have completed detox and support recovery programs funded by the health authorities. Applicants must have demonstrated a commitment to recovery and must have abstained from substance use for at least three months. They must also have a personal recovery plan and the skills and abilities to live independently with minimal supports.

Program coordinators will work closely with clients who experience minor relapses, provided they are willing to seek treatment. Major relapses may require the client to return to detox and more intensive recovery programs.

Program participants may be eligible to transfer into subsidized housing upon successful completion of the Addiction Recovery Program, provided they meet BC Housing criteria for subsidized housing.

You can learn more about the Addiction Recovery Program at www.bchousing.org/Options/Supportive_Housing/ARP.

Applying for the Addiction Recovery Program

Contact your health authority directly. For Vancouver Coastal Health, call Access Central at 1-866-658-1221. For Fraser Health, call 604-694-7445.

3. The Seniors’ Supportive Housing Program

The Seniors’ Supportive Housing Program provides specially modified rental homes in selected subsidized housing developments to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. The program assists those who are able to manage their own lives in an independent setting but would benefit from an accessible unit and support services. Services provided in the Seniors’ Supportive Housing Program include light housekeeping, meals, 24-hour emergency response and social and recreational activities. Tenants pay a contribution towards rent and hospitality services, generally 50% of their income or a flat fee.

Applying for the Seniors’ Supportive Housing Program

A list of housing developments with seniors’ support services is available on BC Housing’s website, at www.bchousing.org/Options/Supportive_Housing/SSH/SSH. The list includes details on the application process for each development.

Homeless outreach programs

In addition to supportive housing in apartment-style buildings, BC Housing has two homeless outreach programs that may serve as the first point of contact with the provincial system of housing and support services for individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and who may be in need of supports to maintain a successful tenancy.

Homeless Outreach Program

The Homeless Outreach Program (HOP) connects people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with housing, income assistance and community-based support services. Non-profit organizations in communities across the province provide outreach services, directly engage and assess clients, assist clients with personal goals and connect individuals and families with housing and community-based support services.

A list of communities that participate in the Homeless Outreach Program, as well as contact information for local outreach workers, is available at www.bchousing.org/Options/Emergency_Housing/HOP.

Homeless Prevention Program

The Homeless Prevention Program (HPP) provides rent supplements and supports that specifically target people leaving the corrections and hospital systems, women who have experienced violence or are at risk of experiencing violence, youth (including those leaving the care system) and people of Aboriginal descent.

A list of communities that participate in the Homeless Prevention Program, as well as contact information for local outreach workers, is available at www.bchousing.org/Options/Emergency_Housing/HPP

In order to address the housing needs of the most vulnerable in our communities, BC Housing will continue to coordinate and prioritize resources and consider new housing models. This involves working with different partners and recognizing opportunities to be flexible in order to provide services to those in the greatest need.

 
About the authors

Danielle is the Manager of Housing Programs at BC Housing. Her provincial program portfolio includes supportive housing programs for seniors and for populations that are homeless or at risk of homelessness

Erin is the Director of Applicant Services at BC Housing. She has worked with BC Housing since 1990, focusing primarily on providing information on housing options to British Columbians

This article is an update of an article that BC Housing contributed to a 2013 Visions issue on housing. See Visions, 8(1), pp. 7-10

*Editor's note:

The SHR provides a list of supportive housing funded by BC Housing only, mostly in the Lower Mainland. There are other providers who also fund and deliver supportive housing (e.g., see CASH article). People can apply to more than one registry.

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