Homelessness, Addiction & Mental Illness: A Call to Action for British Columbia
Highly effective methods have been developed that promote housing stability, improved health and reduced crises among people who experience prolonged homelessness, mental illness and addiction. SFU researchers have led the development of these practices, showing their vast superiority over existing services in BC, despite the fact that existing services cost as much to implement as far more effective approaches. To date SFU’s research findings and experience have not been put into practice in BC. This document is a call to action, proposing the immediate implementation of SFU’s proven approach to be delivered in four regions of BC and assisting at least 1,500 people between 2021-2024. This call is issued jointly by SFU and leading not-for-profit (NFP) organizations addressing the health and wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and including NFPs that partnered with SFU in the development of today’s best practices.
Proposed actions integrate existing provincial investments in housing and support programs and add a coherent and well defined standard of care that is not otherwise available and that has been shown to be essential to reduce chronic street disorder, homelessness, crime, and acute psychological, social, and medical crises. Effective immediately we seek Provincial support to accept referrals from all BC communities for up to 500 clients per year for three years.
This call integrates the organizations and institutions who have scientifically proven their ability to effectively end homelessness and promote recovery among people who are persistently alienated from existing services. Our service model – recovery oriented housing - has been rigorously investigated in BC with outcomes reported in over 100 peer reviewed publications and reports, demonstrating crime reduction, social reintegration and cost effectiveness compared to the status quo. High quality research also confirms that without the care we describe, people in need are overwhelmingly likely to remain homeless and become increasingly involved with police, corrections, and acute medical services. Our call responds to the stated preferences and needs of people in crisis and costs roughly the same as supporting sustained homelessness.
Answering our call will enable mainstream and specialized services to better support people whose needs are aligned with their resources and missions. Our proposed actions aim to make a difference immediately and on an enduring basis by province-wide workforce development, cultivating communities of practice, rigorous reporting of results, and public engagement. Led by Simon Fraser University, our plan anticipates the redevelopment of səmiqwəʔelə/Riverview, fostering practices rooted in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge and replacing the institutional model of the past century with a campus community that exemplifies leading edge prevention of addiction and mental illness. SFU’s commitment to action includes robust training, rapid and ongoing evaluation, and the implementation of effective practices throughout BC. There is no area of social policy that is more urgently in need of “building back better” and we are ready to act to create substantial change