Permanent supportive housing prioritizes people experiencing chronic homelessness and other vulnerable people who have the highest support needs. It provides long-term affordable housing and a diversity of customized support services.
The Making Permanent Supportive Housing Work for Vulnerable Populations research project explores housing practices that support vulnerable populations all the way from implementation to evaluation.
The research builds on earlier work that received support through the National Housing Strategy Research and Planning Fund.
This research program ultimately seeks to improve the delivery of permanent supportive housing and to expand the uptake of this approach. This research received a Gold Roof Award to help the research team in prioritizing the voices of people with lived experience in knowledge translation and exchange.
3 Key Goals
Provide recommendations and add to the national understanding of the permanent supportive housing model as an effective housing solution for vulnerable Canadians.
Inspire housing providers to adopt the permanent supportive housing approach.
Increase participant diversity at major housing conferences by including more people with lived experience of homelessness. This empowers them to play a key role in guiding knowledge that works for them.
(Music fades in.)
(Visual: Government of Canada logo, National Housing Strategy logo and CMHC logo fade in together. A drone shot moves over the Western University campus. A Western University banner hangs from a stone wall. Cut to internal shot of sign that reads: “School of Nursing” with a young woman in studying at table in the background.)
I’m Abe Oudshoorn, I’m a registered nurse and associate professor in the School of Nursing at Western University.
(Visual: Dr. Abe Oudshoorn, the person speaking, appears on camera.)
(Text on screen: Dr. Abe Oudshoorn, Associate Professor — Western University)
In working with people experience and homelessness here in London Ontario, it became clear to me very quickly that homelessness is a housing issue.
(Visual: Dr. Abe Oudshoorn is shown in a series of images working in his office.)
So, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a program of research looking at how we can both prevent and end homelessness. Most recently, we’ve been looking at those who have the highest support needs who are most likely to remain chronically homeless in our current situation.
(Visual: A man is shown entering his private room in a supportive housing project. He sits down on his bed and smiles happily.)
And so we’re looking at the pathways into that type of housing, we’re looking at the kind of policy and funding environment that can make that happen and we’re looking at people’s long-term trajectories, their health and wellbeing and how to stabilize in those settings.
(Visual: Dr. Abe Oudshoorn appears on camera. He continues to speak.)
We’re looking at anything overall that can help make sure that every Canadian has a place to call home.
(Visual: Government of Canada logo, National Housing Strategy logo, and CMHC logo fade in together. Logos fade to white.)
(Music fades out)
Project scope and expected outcomes
The permanent supportive housing model — building knowledge
Many people exiting homelessness or leaving public services need stable affordable housing and supports to enable them to maintain their housing. While we know that supports improve health and social outcomes, there are 2 key knowledge gaps:
- how on-site health and social services impact housing stability for people who were recently re-housed
- what community integration looks like to vulnerable people living in supportive housing
This project is a partnership between researchers from the Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion (CRHESI) at Western University and Indwell. Indwell is a non-profit housing provider in Southwestern Ontario. This organization has had success with permanent supportive housing, including at its Woodfield Gate project in London, Ontario.
The research has been ongoing for over 2 years. It is helping us better understand how to create supportive housing that meets the needs of Canada’s most vulnerable people including those:
- experiencing homelessness
- living with mental or physical health challenges
- living with substance use or addiction challenges
- involved with the criminal justice system
- exiting mental health hospitalization
- living in poverty
Methodology and outcomes
The research team is exploring these questions:
- How are organizations making supportive housing work when there is no dedicated funding for this model?
- What does in-home supports mean for those exiting homelessness and living in supportive facilities?
- How do supportive housing services fit within the broader network of services?
- How do supportive housing buildings and residents integrate — or not — into their community?
The research uses several qualitative methods including:
- case study design supported by resident digital storytelling
- resident surveys
- detailed interviews with Woodfield Gate residents, community members, housing administrators and Indwell staff
It created new, impactful resources:
- an instructional guide: “Best Practice Guideline: How to Build Supportive Housing in Canada”
- a webinar: “Effectively Integrating Affordable Housing into Neighborhoods”
- a scholarly publication related to community integration for those living in supportive housing
- a report of resident narratives: “Indwell: Making Supportive Housing Work for Canada’s Most Vulnerable — Phase 2 Video Narratives
- a final report
When complete, the project will:
- Create a body of baseline data that adds to a national understanding of wise practices in supported housing with a focus on vulnerable populations.
- Provide evidence that supports the broad-based implementation of permanent supported housing as an essential element of successful strategies for reducing chronic homelessness.
- Identify aspects of the transformational effect of ending homelessness for vulnerable people, with a focus on community integration.
- Naming core attributes of housing that address the needs of all Canadians.
New resources highlight the importance of community reintegration
Understanding how permanent supportive housing resources and residents integrate into the community is an important part of housing stability. Sharing Indwell’s success is encouraging other housing providers like Blue Door to learn from and replicate practices.
Sharing knowledge and co-creating solutions to ending homelessness
The research team is using the Gold Roof Award to fund the attendance of people with lived experience of homelessness at key housing conferences. They will participate in the International Journal on Homelessness/Institute of Global Homelessness conference in March 2023.
Increasing the participation of people with lived experiences of homelessness at conferences promotes a diverse and inclusive group of attendees. It also means that people with lived experience play a role in guiding knowledge creation and use to end homelessness.
Resources developed through this research are being shared with project partners and through CMHC channels. This includes consulting local community and business associations with some clear how-tos and resources.
The team will present resources developed through this research at provincial and national housing conferences — such as those hosted by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and Canadian Housing and Renewal Association.
Program: CMHC Housing Research Awards
Activity Stream: Gold Roof Award for Housing Research Excellence
Title of the Research: Making Permanent Supportive Housing Work for Vulnerable Populations
Lead Researcher: Dr. Abe Oudshoorn, Western University
- Steve Rolfe, Indwell