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 â€śhow toâ€ť 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).
HOW TO USE THE TOOLKIT
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.
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.
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 â€“ Community Psychology Program, Wilfrid Laurier University
Eric Macnaughton, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University
Rachel Caplan, Ph.D. Student, Department of Psychology â€“ 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 â€“ 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 CotĂ©, 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. Michaelâ€™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