The final report of the national At Home/Chez Soi study, a longitudinal, multi-city research project with CHÉOS Scientists at the helm of the Vancouver site, was released to the public on April 8.
At Home was funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and took place in five cities in Canada: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Moncton. It examined the effectiveness of a Housing First approach, combined with appropriate health care and supports, as a way to combat homelessness.
A Housing First strategy provides individuals with stable housing and supports with no housing readiness conditions. Other principles are: consumer choice and self-determination; recovery orientation (including harm reduction); individualized and person-driven supports; and social and community integration. According to this strategy, other conditions (i.e. substance use, mental illness, etc.) can be better addressed once this need is met.
CHÉOS Scientists and Professors at the UBC School of Population and Public Health Drs. Jim Frankish and Michael Krausz were co-principal investigators on the study, along with SFU Associate Professor Dr. Julian Somers. CHÉOS Scientists Drs. Verena Strehlau and Anita Palepu were co-investigators. Each study site had a particular area of focus; the Vancouver site of At Home concentrated on people experiencing addiction and complex concurrent disorders.
“The At Home study showed how vulnerable the participants were but also that Housing First and innovative approaches to mental health care in the community had significant impact on their recovery,” said Dr. Krausz. “The high mortality in our sample underlines the urgent need to reform care for the most vulnerable in society.”
Data collection took place from 2009 to 2013 nationwide, and follow-ups are now underway. Since 2013, Vancouver investigators have been conducting a naturalistic observational cohort study as a follow-up to At Home. They are monitoring participants’ mental and physical health, substance use patterns and housing status as they transition from the study. They will also evaluate the current system’s capacity to support this population. Funding for this project comes from the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the MHCC.
A press conference was held in Ottawa on April 8 to present the final report of the five-year study. Present were the Honourable Candice Bergen, federal Minister of State (Social Development), Ms. Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the MHCC, and Dr. Paula Goering, the national principal investigator of At Home. The event included a summary of study findings, clips from the National Film Board’s documentary series on the study, Here at Home, as well as testimonies from study participants.
“At Home/Chez Soi shows us that this approach works in Canada. A house is so much more than a roof over one’s head. It represents dignity, security, and, above all, hope,” said Ms. Bradley at the press conference.
“Providing permanent, secure housing does more than keep a person off the streets and out of shelters, it provides a base from which to move forward. It creates hope where none existed.”
Findings detailed in the report include the versatility of a Housing First strategy among different groups of participants, as well as outlining the positive social and health outcomes the strategy had on homeless individuals.
Researchers also emphasized the cost effectiveness of a Housing First strategy. For example, their study found that for every $10 invested in Housing First services, it resulted in an average cost reduction of other services of $9.60 for participants classified as high needs and $3.42 for those classified as having moderate needs.
Download and read the final report on the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) website.