Posts

The need for mental health supports

By Janice Chan

Janice Chan is a System Planner at CHF


Alberta’s Health Funding Agreement March 10th announcement of an additional $1.3 billion over the next 10 years, including $586 million in support of mental health initiatives is good news for Albertans.  Given that this funding falls short of the 5.2% increase the Alberta Government requested of Ottawa[1], the Alberta government will need to be prudent with its spending to make the greatest impact in a cost-effective manner.

Greatest Impact

People experiencing mental illness are at greater risk of homelessness and the experience of homelessness, “in turn, amplifies poor mental health.”[2]  We know this to be true in Calgary.  Ganesh et al. (2013) screened clients at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre for common psychiatric disorders and found 92.8% experienced one or more psychiatric illness and 60% had been undiagnosed and (or) untreated for their illness.[3]  Furthermore, according to CHF’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) data collected between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, 48% of clients in CHF’s housing programs experience mental illness.  Given the pressing need to address mental illness amongst people experiencing homelessness, we believe this critical investment would have a substantial impact on Calgary’s most vulnerable people.

Cost Savings

The At Home/Chez Soi study demonstrated that, for people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness, there are substantial savings associated with the provision of housing with supports. The final report demonstrated that for the 10% of participants who were using the most services upon enrolment, every $1 invested in housing and professional support during the course of the study resulted in average savings of just over $2. And across all study participants, every $1 invested in housing and professional support resulted in $0.75 in savings on health, justice-related and social services.[4]  The 2016 State of Homelessness in Canada report estimates that homelessness costs Canadians over $7 billion per year.  Investing in critical social services, like mental health supports for Calgary’s most vulnerable can provide much needed cost savings to the public purse.

infographic_janice_large

What’s Needed

CHF’s 2017 budget submissions to federal and provincial governments, have asked for $8 million to help meet critical local funding needs to support vulnerable tenants in 166 new affordable housing units, scheduled to be built through the RESOLVE Campaign.  Funding for the full capital costs of these buildings is in place, however, program funding required to support tenants living in these buildings has not been confirmed. Long-term funding for adequate supports must be secured for people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness to remain stably housed.

Bradley et al. (2016) concluded that money invested in health should not be limited to spending on health care, but also in social services and public health.[5] We hope that the recent additional mental health funding will be used not only to support health care, but also social services to help stabilize Calgary’s most vulnerable in housing through collaboration between Alberta Health and Community and Social Services.  Calgary’s Bridgeland and Ophelia Support Program, cost-shared by the two ministries, demonstrates the benefits of collaboration to provide stable housing and mental health services for people with severe and persistent mental illness and experiencing homelessness.  Not only will this investment make a substantial impact, but also provides cost-savings in health and justice public expenditures.

CHF welcomes the opportunity to further consult with the provincial government as it develops “a detailed plan on how these funds will be spent, over and above existing programs,” with the hope that it will include support to people experiencing mental illness and homelessness.


[1] Kaufmann, B. (2017) ‘Alberta says it hoped for more in $1.3-billion health funding deal with Ottawa’, Calgary Herald, Available from: http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/alberta-says-it-hoped-for-more-in-1-3-billion-health-funding-deal-with-ottawa, [29 Mar.2017].

[2] Homeless Hub. (n.d.) Mental Health, [online]. Available from: http://homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/topics/mental-health [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

[3] Ganesh, A., Campbell, D., Hurley, J., Patten, S. (2013) ‘High Positive Psychiatric Screening Rates in an Urban Homeless Population’, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 58(6), 353-360.

[4] Goering, P., Veldhuizen, S., Watson, A., Adair, C., Kopp, B., Latimer, E., Nelson, G., MacNaughton, E., Streiner, D., & Aubry, T. (2014) National At Home/Chez Soi Final Report. Calgary: Mental Health Commission of Canada.

[5] Bradley, E., Canavan, M., Talbert-Slagle, K., Ndumele, C., Taylor, L., and Curry, L. (2016) ‘Variation in Health Outcomes: The Role of Spending on Social Services, Public Health and Health Care, 2000-09’, Health Affairs, 35(5), 760-768.

Written by Darcy Mammel

*Photo credit: Cat Schick

It’s a beautiful 19 degrees in Calgary and I’m on site at Calgary’s largest yarn-bombing initiative that will celebrate two new apartment buildings being built through the RESOLVE Campaign and Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness. I’ve stopped here on my way to the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market, where I’ll get the experience of being a vendor for the day, sharing information about the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s (CHF) newest undertaking through the RESOLVE Campaign, a unique collaboration of nine Partner agencies raising $120 million to build affordable and supported rental housing for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians.

The yarnbombing is well underway, and as I meet up with Linda Hawke, President of the Board of This is My City Art Society (TMC), she tells me that the weather couldn’t be better. I can see flashes of colour all over the house; a rainbow of yarn has begun making its way around the four walls of the old home. A property in the Hillhurst Sunnyside community that will soon become Aurora on the Park -a 25 unit accessible, affordable housing apartment building for Calgarians exiting homelessness. But for right now, the current building on the property is TMC’s newest canvas.

Contracted by CHF to turn the existing building into a work of art for the project’s introduction into the community, Linda and her team are spending the next two weeks wrapping the house in yarn and other textiles.  When I asked her what this project means to her, she tells me, “The yarn bombing is a great example of what This is My City is all about: art bringing people together…People see the colourful afghans going up on the house and they stop in and ask about what’s going on. Art brings them in. Artists and volunteers from all walks of life are working together to make the house look amazing, each bringing their own ideas and expressions; each getting something out of it personally.”

Yarn donations have been collected from all over different communities and will become part of the artwork that graces the old home.  On June 9th, CHF will officially introduce Aurora on the Park to the community at a kick-off event open to the public. Aurora on the Park was made possible through funding from the Government of Alberta and StreetSide Developments: A Qualico Company who are one of 11 homebuilders working with CHF through the RESOLVE Campaign to end homelessness in Calgary. Along with the Government of Alberta, the home builders have committed funding to build 8 affordable housing apartment buildings throughout Calgary over the next 3 years.

Leaving Linda and her team to exercise their creative muscles, I set up camp at the Sunnyside Hillhurst community centre’s Farmers’ Market. The farmers’ market is outdoor for the first time this season, complete with a band and food trucks. The sun is shining and people are out in full force, reveling in the vendors and music. I spent the next four hours with the community’s residents, introducing the CHF’s newest project. News of the Aurora on the Park was received with a welcoming chorus of encouragement and then, as I explain TMC’s work, fascination with the art of yarn bombing.

When one little boy asks me why I’m not selling anything I explain that I’m just here to share with people what we do. When he asks me why, I explain that I work for an organization that helps people who don’t have homes, find them. He pauses for a moment and frowns. Sneaking a glance up at his mother, he offers his bedroom up as a place for someone to stay so that they can have a home too. The mother stifles a laugh as I grin. Before his mother leads him away he asks me to make sure we find homes for people so that they don’t have to be sad. Out of the mouth of babes…

When the market wound to a close I couldn’t help but think about what Linda said about the power of art. “Everybody comes together through art and at the centre of it all, people interact with each other to create, enjoy, share…and in the process they feel a little more connected to this big community we all share.”

Aurora on the Park will be unveiled on June 9th at 3 p.m.

Contact Aaron G. for more information – 403-237.6456

Written by Britany Ardelli

Have you ever felt so cold in the midst of winter your face feels frozen, like it can barely move and your legs feel like they are about to crack open? That was me at the Coldest Night of the Year Walk. This was a temporary and voluntary situation for me, but for over 3500 homeless Calgarians this can be a reoccurring feeling that they have to endure.

As I walked into EauClaire Market on Saturday, February 21st 2015 I saw people everywhere wearing matching tuques and dressed as if they were going to the ski hill.  With 400+ registered walkers to help support the Coldest Night Of the Year, I was ready to embark on a committed 5 km walk.

The walk was kicked off by the Raging Grannies singing to encourage city counsellors to vote and pass secondary suites and none other than the greatest mayor in the world, Mayor Nenshi, ensuring every volunteer and participant was thanked for our time and monetary donations.

We were then sent on our way into the cold. It’s quite ironic that it’s called The Coldest Night of the Year, because with a fresh new layer of snow, and a windy -16 degrees, it was for sure the coldest night that Calgary had seen in a few weeks.

Along the walk we had cars honking their horns in encouragement, photographers taking our pictures, and volunteers guiding our way to ensure we followed the path set out. Just over an hour later we were done and we were cold!! The thought that people stay outside all day, and even sleep in these conditions, made me so proud that I raised money and completed the walk! It was great to see the community come together to raise money and support the cause to end homelessness!

*************************

Proceeds from the Coldest Night of the Year in Calgary will benefit Feed the Hungry and Acadia Place, a 58 unit affordable housing complex owned by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and operated by CUPS. Through the support of KAIROS, the money donated to Acadia Place will be provided to pay down the mortgage on Acadia Place through the RESOLVE Campaign, a unique collaboration of nine Partner agencies raising $120 million to build affordable and supported rental housing for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians, .

Thank you to the Calgary organizers of Coldest Night of the Year: the Calgary Diocese and KAIROS.