For people with severe mental illness, secure housing with supports is an important component of recovery. Not everyone with a mental illness experiences housing challenges or is in need of supportive housing, but for some individuals, particularly those leaving hospital after a long stay, specialized housing with supports can help them establish themselves and thrive in the community.
Over the last decade, research has demonstrated that many people with a mental illness face housing challenges. People with a severe mental illness are at increased risk of poverty and homelessness. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), “as many as 520,700 people living with mental illness are inadequately housed in Canada and among them, as many as 119,800 are homeless” (MHCC, 2012). In addition, many people who are hospitalized due to severe mental illness face housing challenges at the point of discharge due to a lack of suitable housing options in the community. The term “alternate level of care” (ALC) is used to refer to clients who no longer need the acute care offered by a hospital but remain there due to a lack of appropriate housing options. These clients are unable to transition back into the community; meanwhile, access to psychiatric hospital care is impeded as these ALC clients occupy beds that would otherwise be available to people needing acute care. Supportive housing, then, is a critical component of the recovery of individuals with mental illness and is necessary for efficient flow within the mental health system.