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Housing First Community of Interest

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Housing First

Housing First (HF) is an evidence-based approach designed to end homelessness among individuals with mental illness and addiction. Developed by Dr. Sam Tsemberis, a Canadian clinical community psychologist, the program has two primary components: housing and support. Participants are given immediate access to permanent housing of their choice, facilitated by a portable rent supplement that ensures they pay no more than 30% of their income towards housing. The support component of the program involves Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) or Intensive Case Management (ICM), which provides participants with intensive support aimed at promoting housing stability, recovery, community integration, and achievement of life goals (Padgett, Henwood, & Tsemberis, 2016; Tsemberis, 2015).

Read What Is Housing First? to learn more. 

At Home / Chez Soi

Between 2009 and 2013, the Canadian federal government granted funding through Health Canada to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) for a demonstration research project called At Home / Chez Soi. The study was a randomized controlled trial in five Canadian cities (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton) that followed up participants for up to two years after their enrollment. The results indicated that participants who were assigned to HF demonstrated significantly greater improvements in housing stability, quality of life, and community functioning compared to those assigned to Treatment as Usual (Aubry, Nelson, & Tsemberis, 2015; Goering et al., 2014). Internationally, the positive housing outcomes for HF participants in At Home / Chez Soi were replicated in a four-city trial in France (Tinland et al., 2020). Moreover, HF is the central piece of Finland’s policy to eliminate homelessness (Shinn & Khadduri, 2020). In Finland, homelessness has decreased from around 18,500 in 1987 to just 4,133 in 2021, a decrease of nearly 78%.

The Canadian Housing First Network

Following the At Home / Chez Soi research, Drs. Geoff Nelson and Tim Aubry applied to the Evidence Exchange Network (EEnet), Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to develop a Community of Interest (CoI) focused on HF, which was successful, and the CoI was launched in 2016. In 2022, Drs. Aubry and Nelson made the decision to take the network to a national level. CAMH continued to sponsor the network, and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) became an additional sponsor. The Housing First Network is now one of several Allied Networks under the CAEH, which can be found at https://caeh.ca/caeh-initiatives/allied-networks/.

Values of the network

The Canadian Housing First Network (CHFN) is guided by the values of social justice and equity, inclusion of lived experience and peer support, reconciliation, and consumer empowerment and choice.

Goals

The goals of this CHFN are to:

  1. Build local capacity for HF programs;
  2. Promote high-quality implementation of the HF model that includes both fidelity to and adaptation of the model;
  3. Promote continuous program improvement through the provision of training, the development of HF program standards, the exploration of accreditation standards; and
  4. Advocate and influence public policy related to HF.

Network steering committee

The CHFN Steering Committee holds one-hour meetings five times per year by video teleconference. Steering Committee members also have the option of participating in other network activities. The steering committee consists of members from across Canada. 

Co-chairs

NameOrganizationEmail
Geoff NelsonWilfrid Laurier University, OntarioGNelson@wlu.ca  
Tim AubryUniversity of Ottawa, OntarioTAubry@uottawa.ca

Knowledge Broker

NameOrganizationEmail
Rossana Coriandoli

Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), Toronto, Ontario

Rossana.Coriandoli@camh.ca

Members

NameOrganization/title

Don Robinson

Indigenous consultant, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Eric LatimerDouglas Research Centre and McGill University, Quebec
Eric MacnaughtonUniversity of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver
Greg BishopHuman Development Council, Saint John, New Brunswick
Jason MedfordJustice-related Housing First program, Toronto, Ontario
Jenissa GrantA person with lived experience in Ontario
Kathryn GibbHome for Good, Peel, Ontario
Kelly GozCity of Windsor, Ontario
Kendra GilesPhoenix Residential Society, Saskatchewan
Laura McKinnonCMHA Prince Edward Island
Lisa MeddCMHA Ottawa, Ontario
Michelle BilekCanadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), Ontario
Pio GiralicoCMHA Toronto, Ontario
Simone LillyEnd Homelessness St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Stephen HwangUnity Health Toronto
Taylor JordanOntario Native Women’s Association
Tim RichterCAEH, Alberta
Ty SilverNorth End Community Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Wally CzechCAEH, Alberta