OTTAWA – There is an “exciting opportunity” for the new Housing Minister and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to work together at the intersection of homelessness and mental health, an expert says.
Dr Mary Bartram, director of policy and substance use at Canada’s Mental Health Commission, said while two ministries working together can be powerful, the government needs to support them with funding.
“Absolutely, the opportunities for those new ministries are only as strong as the resources behind them,” she said.
Bartram said the government can take two steps to address the problems discovered in his organization’s research: one immediate and the other long-term.
He said the first immediate step could be taken before next year’s federal budget is prepared.
As Canada heads into the winter season, Bartram said the focus could be on supports such as emergency relief for those experiencing homelessness, and income support for homeless service sector workers.
“Now is the time to pay attention to them and let them go,” she said.
In the long run, she said federally announced initiatives like raising the housing stock, a substance use strategy, and a mental health strategy sound good if they are intertwined.
“So, it’s not in the silo, but they’re looking at this complex issue together,” Bartram said.
Housing Minister Ahmed Hussein said in an interview with The Canadian Press that he and Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett “will connect very closely.”
Citing the Liberals’ National Housing Strategy, Hussain said the government “understands the importance of keeping a lens on our efforts to ensure that those facing mental health challenges are also addressed in our housing policy.” “
The National Co-Investment Fund, a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation-administered fund to build, repair or convert affordable housing, fund projects that include other services such as health, mental health, counseling and substance use services, Hussein said. said.
Bennett, whose position was recently created as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet, said in an interview that both mental health and the national housing strategy need to be executed from bottom to top.
“It’s about working with people who have expertise, but also experience, being able to identify things that are working and scale them into a true integrated strategy ,” He said.
She said she would look to leaders at all levels of government to see what could be done quickly.
In April, housing advocates lauded the government’s one-year, $1.5 billion expansion in its budget for the Rapid Housing Initiative, a program that funds the construction of modular homes and the conversion of existing buildings into affordable housing.
The initiative had originally planned to make 3,000 units, but exceeded that target with 4,500 units. Hussain said the number was closer to 4,700.
However, Canada’s budget watchdog said in an August report that the Liberals’ national housing strategy had had limited effect, with the government spending less than half of its funding on housing programs, among other reasons, and with the provinces Community housing deals have declined. Finished.
The parliamentary budget official, Yves Giroux, estimated that the number of households in need of housing would increase to about 1.8 million by 2025 unless more funding was made available.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 4, 2021.
This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.