Successful CMHA Ottawa condo program can be replicated by housing providers thanks to case study by uOttawa researchers
(Ottawa – Monday, Nov. 22, 2021: National Housing Day) – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – A new toolkit is available for organizations and municipalities looking for an innovative, field-tested means of providing effective social housing to combat homelessness in their community.
Available for download now, the CMHA Ottawa Condo Program Toolkit provides a detailed look at the condominium program operated by the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA Ottawa), a model well-suited for program replication and/or adaptation.
The toolkit will serve as a resource for social services and housing providers so they may replicate and/or adapt the CMHA Ottawa condo program in their own efforts to develop supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness or vulnerable housing, as guided by the principles of the Housing First philosophy, including the provision of housing for people experiencing severe and persistent mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
CMHA Ottawa owns and operates 40 condominium units with a scattered-site approach, providing stable, dignified housing for clients of the agency (eligible unhoused individuals in the Ottawa area with a mental health and/or substance use disorder), while helping address a societal need and fostering recovery. By purchasing existing housing stock (condominium units) throughout the city and functioning as a landlord (with social supports available as needed), organizations can reduce homelessness and help individuals get back on their feet with the best chances of success.
The CMHA Ottawa condominium program is considered by experts as a shining example of the Housing First philosophy in action. The Housing First approach centres on immediately providing independent and permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness – without conditions – and then providing additional supports and services.
The scattered-site approach has been proven a key element to fostering recovery: “It’s why I think scattered units work and warehousing people does not,” says one condo tenant of CMHA Ottawa, “because being around ‘sick’ doesn’t make you sane.”
In 2019, a team of researchers from the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services (CRECS) at the University of Ottawa conducted a case study of the successful CMHA Ottawa condominium program.
The team – composed of Dr. Tim Aubry, Dr. John Sylvestre, Ayda Agha, Maryann Roebuck, and Stéphanie Manoni-Millar – studied the CMHA Ottawa housing program, interviewing clients of the program, CMHA Ottawa staff, condominium property managers, and program funders, to document how the housing program is implemented and the difference it makes for its clients. The study was conducted with the assistance of CMHA Ottawa program manager, Lisa Medd, and directors, Drs. Tim Simboli and Donna Pettey, as well as the housing team at the agency.
“This is the best and I don’t know how CMHA figured it out,” says another tenant. “They didn’t put everybody together in one building. They did not put one block and in that block everybody all together. No, they said no. We buy a few here, a few there, and you mix it up in a community and it’s unbelievable how you feel.”
The results of the review led to the production of the robust toolkit that will serve as a resource for social services and housing providers so they may replicate and/or adapt the CMHA Ottawa condo program in their own efforts to develop supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness or vulnerable housing, as guided by the principles of the Housing First philosophy, including the provision of housing for people experiencing severe and persistent mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
The eye-catching toolkit was designed by the communications team at the Ontario division of the Canadian Mental Health Association and can be downloaded in English and French today.
- People with lived experience of mental illness and/or substance use disorders are disproportionately affected by homelessness. An estimated 25 to 50 per cent of people experiencing homelessness also live with a mental health condition (source).
- In 2020, the City of Ottawa declared a housing/homelessness emergency. There is a lack of safe, affordable options for unhoused populations across Canada. Creative solutions are needed to address homelessness and to create sustainable housing options that will also successfully integrate unhoused and vulnerably housed individuals into society.
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Patrick Jodoin, CMHA Ottawa Communications and Community Relations Specialist
Tel: (613) 737-7791 ext. 135