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.”
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.
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.