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