Background and Purpose of the Toolkit

This toolkit is based on the experience of the Canadian At Home/Chez Soi project that used the Pathways to Housing model of Housing First for homeless people with mental illness. While the toolkit has a mental health focus because it is based on the At Home/Chez Soi experience, it is applicable to and can be adapted to other segments of the homeless population (e.g., youth, families), many of which also experience mental health challenges. We recognize that the Pathways to Housing model of Housing First is but one model of housing for homeless people, not the only model. At the same time, we note that the Pathways model, unlike many other housing models, is based on extensive research, including the At Home/Chez Soi project and several rigorous studies conducted in the United States. Moreover, the Pathways model of Housing First is being implemented across Canada, the United States, and Europe. In Canada, Housing First was adopted as the solution to homelessness in Calgary and it has now been adopted in many other Alberta cities, including Edmonton, Red Deer, and Lethbridge, which have been successful in reducing homelessness. Finally, Housing First is being actively promoted by the Homelessness Partnering Strategy of Employment and Social Development Canada.

The toolkit was developed to assist other Canadian communities that are interested in adopting the Housing First approach. Primarily based on the experiences of the At Home/Chez Soi project, we have assembled tools and resources that are practical and user-friendly for groups and communities interested in the Housing First approach. We expect the primary users of the toolkit to be practitioners, planners, government policy-makers, researchers, and people with lived experience of homelessness and/or mental health working in the housing/homelessness sector, health/mental health sector, and stakeholders in related sectors. The toolkit provides useful “how to” information based on years of experience that can help community groups and individuals to develop and implement Housing First programs. Finally, the toolkit complements similar manuals developed in the U.S. (SAMHSA, 2010; Tsemberis, 2010) and a recent book of case studies of Housing First in Canada (Gaetz, Scott, & Gulliver, 2013).

Housing put together


THE TOOLKIT is organized into several modules: an overview, planning, implementation, evaluation, and sustainability. Each module is accompanied with videos and links to resource material. Users can access this material in several ways. First, individuals can access the materials via the interactive website that is hosted by the Homeless Hub and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Those who choose this option can pick and choose particular sections of each module to review, rather than reviewing an entire module.

How We Put the Toolkit Together

THE TOOLKIT TEAM reviewed research and materials relevant to each of the modules. We relied heavily, but not exclusively, on the qualitative research reports of the At Home/Chez Soi research. However, we also used a highly participatory approach to the development of the toolkit.

At the beginning of the project, we conducted focus groups with stakeholders at each of the five At Home/Chez Soi sites, the senior managers of this project, and a group of people with lived experienced who worked in the project. We also contacted numerous groups and individuals to obtain information and resources that could be included in the toolkit.

We also assembled an expert panel of people working in the housing/homeless and health/mental health sectors who reviewed drafts of each of the modules. A structured approach was used to gather the input of members of this panel to improve the toolkit. Expert panel members reviewed not only the content of the modules, but they comment on the readability, language, appeal, and accessibility of the modules.

Toolkit Sources


This product has been made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The views expressed herein solely represent the authors.

We are grateful to the Mental Health Commission of Canada who not only funded this project, but encouraged us to undertake it. In particular, we thank Catharine Hume and Cameron Keller for their role in supporting the toolkit development. We also acknowledge the Homeless Hub as a key partner, and thank Stephanie Vasko for her amazing work in graphic design and website development. We thank all of the people from the At Home/Chez Soi project who provided us with advice and materials, and others who also shared resources. We are also grateful to all of the members of the expert panel who generously shared their time in reviewing the materials and providing us with feedback.
Infographic design: Patricia Lacroix
Photo credits: Dan Cronin and Shane Fester.

Suggested Citation

Polvere, L., MacLeod, T., Macnaughton, E., Caplan, R., Piat, M., Nelson, G., Gaetz, S., & Goering, P. (2014). Canadian Housing First toolkit: The At Home/Chez Soi experience. Calgary and Toronto: Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Homeless Hub.

Toolkit Team Members

Lauren Polvere, Ph.D., Douglas Mental Health University Institute

Tim MacLeod, Ph.D. Student, Department of Psychology – Community Psychology Program, Wilfrid Laurier University

Eric Macnaughton, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University

Rachel Caplan, Ph.D. Student, Department of Psychology – Community Psychology Program, Wilfrid Laurier University

Myra Piat, Ph.D., Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University

Geoff Nelson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology – Community Psychology Program, Wilfrid Laurier University

Stephen Gaetz, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, York University

Paula Goering, Ph.D., University of Toronto and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Expert Panel Members

Tim Aubry, University of Ottawa

Claudette Bradshaw, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Lucille Bruce, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Jody Brown, Brantford Social Services

Sonia Coté, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Dorothy Edem, Capital Health Authority

Brenda McAllister, Saskatoon Health Authority

Susan McGee, Homeward Trust, Edmonton

Faye More, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Marie Morrison, Waterloo Region Social Services

Tim Richter, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Ana Stefancic, Pathways to Housing

Vicky Stergiopoulos, St. Michael’s Hospital

Stephanie Vasko, Homeless Hub

Jiji Voronka, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Juliana Walker, Pathways to Housing

Dean Waterfield, Transitions to Home

Shannon Watson, Government of Manitoba

Alina Turner, Calgary Homeless Foundation