Close to 100 housing leaders and government officials from across Canada devoted day one of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s annual conference to an in-depth review of the links between housing, homelessness and health. The Wellesley Institute’s Michael Shapcott delivered the opening keynote, providing a survey of the latest evidence on the links between poor housing and health, and also the growing body of evidence that demonstrates that good housing is link to longer and healthier lives.Shapcott noted that good housing is not only good for individual health, but also benefits population health, the economic health of the community and the fiscal health of government. A number of studies, including cost-benefit analyses of people living with HIV/AIDS and men leaving jail, show that stable housing reduces health and social service costs. For ex-offenders, a good home has also been shown to reduce recidivism, making the community safer by lowering the crime rate.
In his presentation, Shapcott pointed to pragmatic policy options – including new forms of financing – that are being used in various places in Canada, and in the United States and Britain, to deliver better housing and supports. The Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010 provides a detailed overview of housing issues and policy options, and sets out a practical agenda for a ten-year plan to meet Canada’s housing and homelessness challenges.
Other presenters filled in the details on housing, health and homelessness links.
University of British Columbia Prof Anita Palepu outlined the Reach3 study which is looking at the health status of 1,200 people who are homeless or badly housed in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa over three years.
Sean Rourke and Jay Koornstra set out the findings from a longitudinal study of people living with HIV/AIDS that underlines the critical importance of a good home for good health.
Saskatoon health professionals Catherine Ford and Jason Jarotski reviewed the powerful work being done by Saskatoon public health authorities, including the CommunityView Collaboration, which puts detailed evidence and practical information in the hands of people who want to work for positive change.
The afternoon session heard from three housing / homelessness veterans whose work has created amazing and inspiring models: :iz Evans from Vancouver’s Portland Hotel Society; Brigitte Witkowski from Toronto’s Mainstay Housing; and Jocelyn Greene from St John’s Stella Burry Community Services.