As individuals and organizations recognize World Homelessness Day and World Mental Health Day on Oct 10, CMHA Ottawa is reminding the community that housing is key to the recovery for many people with mental health issues.
Individuals with serious mental health conditions frequently identify income and housing as the most important factors in achieving and maintaining their health. Studies show that people who are homeless are more likely to experience compromised mental health and mental illness than the general population. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, between 25 to 50 per cent of the homeless population in Canada live with a mental illness(es). The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing gaps in housing, making it even more difficult to find and maintain affordable housing for people living with mental illnesses and addictions.
At CMHA Ottawa, our outreach services help people with complex needs and mental illness develop goals and connect with ongoing supports to maintain housing and stability. In 2020–21, 214 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness were helped by the Housing Outreach team to find and/or maintain permanent housing.
At CMHA Ottawa, we also own 40 condominium units that house clients and former clients of the agency. In 2020–21, CMHA Ottawa administered 396 provincially-funded rent supplements, meaning that 266 clients of CMHA Ottawa and 130 MHCSS and ACTT (Assertive Community Treatment Team) clients who were previously homeless or vulnerably housed now have affordable housing through this program. Of these rent supplements, 93 were specifically supporting clients experiencing problematic substance use and 17 were for dedicated to clients involved with the justice system.
CMHA Ottawa’s housing program is one of the first in Canada that looks at providing housing to homeless people almost immediately. We work closely to match clients with the environment and location that works best for them.
CMHA Ontario continues its efforts to promote the need for housing in general and supportive housing in particular for people with lived experience of mental illness. CMHA Ontario has called for increased investments in housing, as well as the need to reduce barriers to housing as one way to reduce the overall costs to health care, police and justice, and social services sectors.