The Woman Who Pioneered “Housing First”


From YES! Magazine: “When nurse Liz Evans began taking troubled tenants into the Portland Hotel in 1991, she didn’t have any grand strategy in mind. She certainly wasn’t conscious of the changes in social policies that her work at the hotel would gradually initiate in Vancouver. She was simply trying to be kind. But, at the Portland Hotel, a fascinating set of unintended consequences soon became evident. Evans found that when she told tenants they no longer needed to fear eviction—that they would not be thrown out to the streets for using drugs or disrupting others with symptoms of mental illness—her tenants often used less drugs and experienced fewer mental health outbursts. When she gave tenants a home that was truly theirs and removed the intense feelings of stress that they had previously felt from the constant threat of homelessness, their mental health improved, sometimes significantly so.

. . . Everyone who lived at the Portland was severely addicted to drugs or alcohol. Evans estimates that 95 percent were injection users. ‘They were treating themselves badly and treating each other badly because they didn’t feel like their lives were worth much,’ she says. ‘I was getting to know people and listening to their stories. And always the common denominator was, “My life is worth shit, and I don’t matter.” That was the piece that really made me think about my mum and think, “Well, fuck, these are just people in the world who don’t feel like their lives have a right to occupy space.”‘

While she was never abused, Evans saw her own life in the lives of her tenants. ‘I had grown up with a mentally ill mother. I never had thought of her as sick; I just thought she was a really nice person who was broken and sad,’ she explains. ‘And so I just saw [the Portland tenants] as broken and sad. These people are lovely, but they don’t fit. For whatever reason, there is no space for them. They don’t fit anywhere in the world, and the world, to them, feels like a very unwelcoming place.’ Inside the Portland, she worked to create a sanctuary.”

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  1. I gotta say this is right. Three cheers for this woman. NOBODY should be homeless!

    I was homeless for FIVE YEARS.

    Where I am if you are seriously mentally ill you are rehoused in A HOME OF YOUR OWN.

    This is not just how it should be for the ill and disabled but for everybody. I repeat NO ONE should be homeless EVER.

    Due to an apparent shortage of resources there is an artificial pecking order. This means that increasingly only the overtly ill are being prioritized and housed.

    Needless to say, in any artificial pecking order, such as a soup queue in a death camp, those low on the priority list get disgruntled and jealous of those still getting attention from housing authorities.

    Such jealously then sets up an effort to discredit the reality if the illness that the severely ill and disabled honestly do have.

    The authorities are ever keen to reduce having to giving housing to anyone. The authorities are more than happy to join the jealous in maligning the actuality of illness. Downplaying it. This then will see many thousands if not millions of people with severe health problems made homeless.

    If anyone seriously believes the authorities are then gonna give everyone a tiny home to wallpaper then I would call that person severly deluded and in need of disabled housing.

    Why should my many currently housed and very unwell people in my city, people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, iatrogenic brain damage, persons who have already had years of being homeless, have to be homeless again just because there are other homeless people whom although they have suffered a lot are perhaps not so ill?

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  2. Cont…ps…
    If iatrogenic damage can cause brain derailment on a par with schizophrenia symptoms, then schizophrenia more or less exists as a REAL illness.

    If the iatrogenically compromised brain gives hallucinations, mood disruption, psychotic delusions and other hallmarks of schizophrenis then it seems to me that the brain really is a delicate organ than CAN, when out of alignment, CAUSE schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like other stuff too.
    Let me be clear. I am no fan of rootling around in the braim or body for ANY REASON. I thank Robert Whitaker for highlighting the foolishness and hubris of doing so. He is a life saver of millions for doing so. But by his work he found out just how delicate the brain is, how easy it is to iatrogenically damage, and how iatrogenic effects are like schizophrenia.
    Some would prefer to call their schizophrenia just iatrogenic harm. Others are ok to carry on calling themselves schizophrenic so long as there is an end to BAD TREATMENT. And yet others feel they want NO treatment. A name of a state, like being gay, is not the HARSH TREATMENT of that. A name is just a preferred name.
    Tomatos Tomaytos Potatos Potaytos Iatrogenic Schizophrenia. A name is just a name. It is made up of letters of the alphabet.

    The iatrogenically harmed should be housed if they have illness of the same severity as schizophrenia.

    In my view people should stop maligning each others own unique sense of their own brain, mind, body, spirit illness.

    Those with severe schizophrenia are often ill and should be housed. Those with severe iatrogenic brain damage should be housed.

    The idea that everyone with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is just suffering from a past trauma is like telling someone with iatrogenic brain damage, whose thalamus and hippocampus has shrunk to the size of a dime, that their brain only feels ill and hallucinates because they had a rough childhood.

    When cash strapped authorities join the jealous and say that everyone, including those with severe bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the iatrogenically mangled and so on, are suffering from trauma they are not going to house the traumatized.

    You may choose to not like your diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or iatrogenic brain damage but if someone told you that by keeping that name only and NOT THE BAD TREATMENT you could have a four room house to live in rent free for a decade I think you might think that level of care was GOOD TREATMENT.

    As this article clearly demonstrates.

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