Program that finds housing for homeless patients in hospital gets $223K in federal funding

People facing homelessness won’t be discharged back into homelessness, thanks to a program offered at London’s Victoria Hospital and University Hospital.

Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, announced a federal investment of $223,000 for the No Fixed Address program Monday morning, at Victoria Hospital.

The project, which is being expanded into phase two, means that “when someone exits a hospital, they’re not simply shown the door and ‘you’ll find housing down the street. Turn left at the next light,'” Vaughan said.

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Instead, partnerships with local agencies help to “break the cycle of homelessness” by giving patients who are homeless or at risk of being homeless help in finding stable housing and financial support.

“It’s something which attaches provisional housing to supportive housing, and provides a duty of care as health organizations transfer people into settings where they can start to heal themselves and move towards self sufficiency.”

The program started in the summer of this year, and its principal investigator, Lawson Research Institute assistant director Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, says it’s helped 17 people so far. She’s been working on the issue of preventing discharges into homelessness for more than a decade, starting in psychiatric wards, and shared on Monday some of what she’s learned talking to people with lived experience.

“Many of them were saying their journey of homelessness started with a hospital discharge,” she said.

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Sometimes it was because of a relationship break up, other times it was because the patient lost a job. Whatever the case, Dr. Forchuk said the end result was that the patient no longer had a place to go.

“The length of stay was relatively short, and it takes time to pull those things together. They went out with information about how to access services but not with a place to stay.”

Dr. Forchuk heard from hospital staff that they were feeling “moral distress,” about discharging people into homelessness. She also heard from local shelters that their facilities were not the right places for people to heal.

Through the No Fixed Address strategy, a housing advocate will be hired to work with inpatient medical wards at both University Hospital and Victoria Hospitals. Dr. Forchuck said they’re also getting in-kind contributions from Ontario Works and the Rent Stability Bank (run by the Salvation Army with funds from the city of London), to help cover first and last month rent deposits, and rent and utilities bills that go into arrears during a hospital stay.

Lawson Research Institute will be using funding to evaluate the issue, to find out how often people are discharged into homelessness and who is being discharged into homelessness.

“We will never get a handle on homelessness. We’ll never meet those goals, if we don’t also prevent homelessness,” Dr. Forchuck said.

The funding is part of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, and a part of a total $2.2-billion spending program to tackle homelessness over 10 years.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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