Residential Housing for Persons with Serious Mental Illness: The Fifty Year Experience with Foster Homes in Canada

The provision of decent and affordable housing is one of the most important elements for integrating persons with serious mental illness into the community, and is fundamental to their recovery. Housing is a basic human right and a requirement for living in society. Over the past fifty years, a continuum of professionally controlled housing models has been developed for people with serious mental illness in several developed countries, including Canada and the United States. These housing models range from highly structured professionally staffed, to more autonomous arrangements, and include hostels, group homes, foster homes, and supervised apartments. For mental health consumers, placement into such housing is usually tied to the acceptance of formal mental health rehabilitation services, and the requirement of "graduating" along the housing continuum toward the goal of independent living in the community (Ministry of Health and Social Services 2005; Ridgway and Zipple 1990). Over time, alternative supported housing models linked to greater consumer choice in housing and more flexible rehabilitation support services, have evolved (Dorvil, Morin, Beaulieu, and Robert 2002; Hopper and Barrow 2003; Macpherson, Shepherd, and Edwards 2004; Nelson and Peddle, 2005).

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