Everybody deserves to have a safe place to call home. But for many individuals living with mental illness in B.C., this is not the case. For those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads, stable housing can be easily taken for granted. This year we saw how emergency situations like the COVID-19 crisis only further exacerbated the need for housing with mental health support for vulnerable populations.
Housing insecurity prevents those struggling with mental illness to gain access to the support they need. Having stable housing with mental health supports is the first step towards recovery, healing and the opportunity for more independent living. With the right puzzle pieces like permanent housing with imbedded supports, people living with mental health can begin to recover.
Michelle is a new resident at Garibaldi Ridge (51 homes),
temporary modular housing established in Maple Ridge in September 2019.
Coast Mental Health collaborates with BC Housing and other organizations to match clients to the type of housing that will best support their needs. Michelle is a client who is living at Garibaldi Ridge temporary modular housing in Maple Ridge.
“It has given me a better quality of life knowing that I have stable housing now.”
Access to housing and community-based support services has provided the stability to help Michelle as she begins to rebuild important life skills and reconnect to her community. When asked what’s her favourite part about living at Garibaldi Ridge, she said it was having a table of her very own.
“I can sit in my suite and watch whatever I want, when I want and enjoy having my own space for the first time in over 20 years.”
Michelle is a person with a disability and was previously living in a shelter. Unfortunately, many people living with disabilities rely on social housing because it can be difficult to find work, especially when they don’t have extended family who are able to care for them. Now Michelle has her mother and sister living close by and she’s able to visit them often to maintain those important family connections. Living in temporary housing for Michelle means that for the first time in a long time she has the support and the safe housing she needs.
Maple Ridge Modulars (Royal Crescent Ave, Maple Ridge)
was the first temporary modular housing development
(53 homes) established in October 2018.
Michelle hopes to live at Garibaldi Ridge for the next three years but isn’t sure where she’ll reside after that. Temporary housing is a vital resource in our communities, but we also need to look towards more permanent solutions.
“With permanent housing in place, we would expect to see a decrease in the day-to-day chaos caused by homelessness, substance use and mental illness. When a person can access the health care supports they need, they’re able to make better life decisions and they’re more likely to deal with their health issues. Often these are chronic illnesses that have been ignored for many years,” says Renay Bajkay, Director, Housing Services, Coast Mental Health. “Permanent housing with supports allows people to focus on their recovery and a better quality of life.”
Prior to temporary modular housing in Maple Ridge, there were very few housing options and a large homeless population. Housing with supports gave vulnerable populations a safe place to live with access to health care services. Once housing was established, a network of supports mobilized between BC Housing, Fraser Health, first responders and community groups. Together, these groups developed lifesaving systems to fill the gaps in health care that were missing in the community.
Today, residents have access to more resources to support family members struggling with a mental illness or substance use disorders. The more resources interconnected within the same community, the stronger the support network. Meeting clients where they’re at with an individualized recovery plan and mental health support is the best way to reduce the number of hospital visits or emergency calls and keep those struggling with mental illness safe and housed.
World Mental Health Day is October 10th and with the stress and isolation of COVID-19 mental health support is more important than ever. We have an unprecedented opportunity to call on the government to #fundmentalhealth. We need to come together and advocate for permanent housing for people living with mental illness.
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