Housing for mental health

Individuals with mental health issues offered affordable places to live

When providing services for individuals living with mental health issues, affordable housing and ensuring those individuals have a roof over their head is something Winnipeg is working on.

“Safe, decent housing stock for those with a limited income is in short supply in Winnipeg,” Stephanie Skakun, a director at Canadian Mental Health Association, says. 

“Individuals with mental health issues may also face additional challenges around stigma when searching and applying for housing.” 

Skakun is the director of operations for Rehabilitation & Recovery Service. She says lack of education and understanding around mental illness feeds misinformation and myths when it comes to understanding how to support individuals who are struggling and creates barriers to aiding in their recovery.  

“A safe, affordable living environment goes a long way. It provides the stability that is necessary to function,” Skakun says. “Individuals can then focus on wellness, relationships, accessing supports and participating meaningfully in life.”

Skakun cautions generalising these individuals’ needs when it comes to community housing, saying each has the right to their own wants and needs when it comes to a home. They have the right to choose a place to live that is most suitable for them.

“(Affordable housing) will absolutely be beneficial to many individuals in our community. We need to ensure that a full range of housing options is available as well as accompanying mental health services and supports,” Skakun says. “But as with any housing type, there are simply not enough (available).”

Skakun says offering affordable housing means Manitobans are moving in the right direction. Her advice would be to involve tenants and individuals in planning to ensure that their needs and priorities are identified. 

“Housing is a basic human right. We all need a roof over our head, a safe place to call home, and to be part of accepting communities to thrive and be our best selves,” Skakun says. 

In Winnipeg, the call for accessible and affordable housing for these individuals is not going unanswered. Manitoba Housing in collaboration with Fountain Springs Housing (FSH), a part of Clubhouse of Winnipeg, has been working on a housing project at 184 Sherbrook street for those dealing with mental health issues.

“(Collaboration) between Manitoba Housing and community-based housing organizations creates a partnership to develop affordable housing projects,” Dwayne Rewniak, executive director of housing delivery and land development with Manitoba Housing, says. 

“This type of partnership arrangement allows the organizations to build and operate housing that meets the needs of the community it serves.”

In these cases, Manitoba Housing enters into a development agreement with the community group which allows the group to take on the role of developer while Manitoba Housing provides capital funding and works with them to see the project through to completion.

“Housing that is healthy, safe and affordable provides a stable base to help individuals, communities and the economy thrive,” Rewniak says. “(Those) who have stable, good quality, affordable housing have an improved quality of life. Housing investments also stimulate the local economy and create training opportunities and jobs.”

The FSH project on 184 Sherbrook Street will have 30 units, including one suit for a live in caretaker.  

“Housing is a key element of strong, healthy and sustainable communities,” Rewniak says. “(Nationally), Winnipeg has remained among the most affordable of the 10 major urban centres in Canada.”

Published in Volume 71, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 20, 2016)

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