Mental Health Starts With Home


Without stable, affordable housing, people with mental illness are at increased risk of chronic homelessness.

As Mental Health Awareness Month wraps up, we wanted to share some insights from some of our collaborators, to hold in focus how critical stable, affordable housing is for people with mental illness, and why the Starts With Home campaign recognizes that Mental Health #StartsWithHome.

Mental Health and Housing are inseparable

Research has shown that without stable, affordable housing and adequate support, people with mental illness are at increased risk of chronic homelessness, hitting barriers to wellness, and struggling to advocate for their basic human rights. Cities across Canada conduct a one-day survey to get a snapshot of homelessness in their community. Ottawa’s 2021 Point-in-Time Count found that 58% of respondents also experience mental health issues. 

A Call to Action

The Royal Hospital, an Alliance member organization specializing in delivering mental health care, advocacy, research, and education, has written “There can be no good mental health without stable housing. The Royal endorses the Starts With Home campaign for affordable housing because conversations about mental health and housing, especially housing with supports for those living with mental illness, are inseparable. We call on the municipal council and our provincial government to take the evidence-based approach and make housing with supports for those living with mental illness a top priority.” 

Joanne Bezzubets', CEO and President of The Royal, says "Good mental health and stble housing are inseparable".

There are solutions

It is our collective imperative to ensure everyone in the City of Ottawa has a safe and affordable place to call home. There are solutions to the current housing crisis. By making use of all available tools, we can bring an end to homelessness and support people with mental illness. Through public, non–profit and private sector collaboration, cities across Canada are significantly reducing homelessness in their areas. A key tool in the Starts With Home platform  is increasing the municipal budget to house 1,000 households each year through rent subsidies and creation of non-profit units. This would reduce homelessness and the social housing registry waitlist by 50% by 2030! The cost of providing a safe and supportive home for someone with mental illness is significantly less than the costs of the status quo:  including shelters, emergency support and hospitalization.

Individuals waiting for supportive housing receive Alternative Level of Care in hospital. Alternative Level of Care costs $30,900/month. Housing plus supports costs $1,833/month

Housing is a human right

More importantly, the impact on overall wellness for individuals and families, once housed, is transformative. Our creative partner, Jen Biscope, has lived experience of how inseparable mental health and adequate housing truly are.


Space of Solace

by Jen Biscope

“A traumatized soul needs solace. 

Solace in the form of security. 

Security in the form of a space to call their own. 

To breathe, to stretch, to lament, to rejoice.


Today more than ever

As our world gets louder and busier

Less village and more selfish

People need a safe quiet spot to call their own. 

To calm their souls, heal their hearts, 

Make healthy, smart decisions about their one and only life.


Housing does not have to be extravagant.

Maintained and safe, but not fancy.

Easy to take pride in.


It is a ripple effect...pride. 

It starts with having a door that locks and a bed that is clean. 

Food in one's stomach. 

These things give one the strength to look in the mirror and fix the sad soul within. 

Suddenly the pride in one’s home 

Becomes pride in oneself.  

That is everything.


The need for one's own safe 'cave' is as old and as ingrained as our species.”


Jen Biscope is a person who lives with mental illness and who has been in recovery from substance use for over 15 years. Prior to having supportive housing, she was chronically evicted and homeless. Since receiving housing, she has been able to move through recovery and consistent therapy, toward living a healthy, happy life. She now works to keep her community safe as a needle collector and is currently partnering with the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa in designing The Poverty Challenge, an educational simulation training designed to give people an embodied experience of homelessness, and to engage in solution-oriented dialogue for systemic change.


Smiling woman. Quote from CMHA Ottawa: \

Latest posts

Deputation at Community Services Committee
Budget 2024

Hear our Executive Director Kaite Burkholder Harris share long-term solutions to Ottawa's housing crisis at the Community Services Committee.

Tuesday, Nov 28th - Community Services Committee - Budget 2024

 Good Morning Chair and Members of the Committee,

Over the course of the past year, as the City faces the full impact of a housing crisis out of control, I want to start by pointing to actions that are working. In June, this Council approved an Integrated Transition to Housing Plan that City staff built with community partners. The result in the short term is an enhanced rent subsidy with greater flexibility, enabling people who have been stuck in homelessness to rapidly move out of the PDC’s. By allocating resources towards flexible subsidies like this, we enable people to secure stable housing.

Ending Homelessness Starts With Non-Profit Housing

By: Sophia Kelly-Langer

Take a moment to picture a person experiencing a housing crisis. What does it look like? For some, it looks like sitting out in the cold, hoping that the shelter is not full, so they can actually get in that night. For others, it looks like a family struggling to make the rent after a lay-off. It may look like a senior on a fixed income unable to downsize in their neighbourhood because there are no affordable options.


In the most extreme cases, a housing crisis looks like people living in encampments, some directly in front of Parliament Hill. These have become the only shelter options for some, including children and youth under bridges. The jarring contrast of the most vulnerable going without the basic need of housing just feet away from our country’s decision-makers is not lost on the people living in an encampment.

Increase Investment in Non-Profit Housing: Deputation to the Planning & Housing Committee, February 15th 2023

The fallout from the housing crisis means that as a city, we spend $30 million on emergency shelter costs every year. People experiencing homelessness engaging with police costs roughly $25M every year in Ottawa. We spend over $15 million a year on keeping people in hotels, because there is not enough affordable housing. Ending the housing crisis in our city means that we invest at least as much in solutions, as we do managing the crisis.

In order to make our city affordable, the smartest capital investment we can make is in non-profit housing.

Showing 2 comments

  • M

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    Alex Oliver

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  • Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa
    Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa
    published this page in Blog 2022-05-25 11:33:38 -0400

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