A five-year study involving 497 homeless people with mental health or addictions problems in Vancouver found that, when provided free apartments, most people “stabilized their lives and coexisted peacefully with their neighbours,” according to the Vancouver Sun. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has been leading the “Housing First” randomized control trials in five cities, and issued its report on Vancouver this week. Additionally, for every $10 invested in providing housing, the study found an average savings of $8.55 in avoided use of social services. “For the difference of $1.45, the participant went from living a chaotic life on the street, to living inside and starting to address challenges such as mental illness, addictions, terrible health, poverty and poor quality of life,” reports the Vancouver Sun.
Simon Fraser University Health Sciences lead investigator Julian Somers told the Vancouver Sun that he believes those financial numbers would have been even more robust if people on the street had been able to access all of the services that they needed, like the housed people more readily could. Somers noted that being able to choose from ordinary apartments located around the city was “a hugely powerful part” of the participants’ transformation. “Regardless of the state of your mental health or your economics, within reason being able to exercise choice is pretty important to thrive in life.”
Participants with mental illness, addictions thrive after being given apartments: five-year national study (Vancouver Sun, June 27, 2014)
Vancouver Final Report: At Home/Chez Soi project (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2014)