London, Ontario expands its work on stopping post-hospital homelessness – London


A program in London, Ontario to prevent hospital patients from being discharged into homelessness is being expanded with two new projects that could also help pave the way for nationwide change.

The “no fixed address” strategy will now draw attention to a new and improved system of collaboration with other city groups and agencies, as well as a program specially tailored to young people aged 16 to 24.

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“We have so many different sectors – the health sector, the homeless sector, housing and income support – and for a complex problem like homelessness we need to work together and put systems in place that allow us to be a team to do this Address the problem, ”explained Dr. Cheryl Forchuk.

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“We have had very good results in the past in reducing this problem. With every project we try to find out who [is it] were missing? who [do] Do we have to do a better job? “

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Forchuk’s research team at the Lawson Health Research Institute developed the NFA strategy about three years ago as an extension of some of their previous studies.

According to Lawson, the first phase of the project in acute and tertiary mental health care in the London area found that “interventions prevented homelessness 95 percent of the time”.

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Federal funding was announced in September 2018 as the project began its second phase, which focused on expanding the program to select medical departments at the London Health Sciences Center.

“Most recently, we learned two things in the studies we just completed … First, some things like the data and entry points weren’t as well coordinated, even though we met as a team as they could be,” said Forchuk on Wednesday.

“The other piece we found [was] About a third of the people who needed help were young people. And we basically had a one size fits all that we believed was more geared towards adults. “

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One of those teens was Josiah Chalmers, 25, who was homeless for about two years during which time he was hospitalized four times in Kitchener and twice in London before securing housing in September 2020.

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Chalmers says when the first COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020, the shelter he was in was closed.

“So there was an urgent need for living space. I was having a lot of mental health issues at the time, addictions – I had a pretty bad relapse, ”he told Global News.

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He said he was already on all the waiting lists he could be on and he took the initiative to contact John D’Oria directly, the coordinated access manager in the city’s homeless prevention department.

Thanks to the collaboration with Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Chalmers received a call on August 13, 2020 and was accommodated until September 1.

“When you’re homeless, you keep hearing, ‘Oh, we’ll get you a house in a month,’ and it never happens. Or they find you very, very temporarily, ”he says.

“It definitely took a lot of shock – like it was too good to be almost true, right? How could that happen? It’s been so long and I’ve fought so hard and now that someone finally realizes my story it just feels really reassuring to be heard. “

Chalmers now has a job and pets – some rabbits and a hamster. He even joked that he’s so delighted to have an apartment that he has no problem staying in the middle of the pandemic.

“I’ve been in such a socially stressful situation for so long that it’s really nice to just say that it’s a really nice thing to be told not to leave my house. I won’t disagree, I’ll stay inside! “

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According to Forchuk, the project depends on partnerships and collaboration, as well as feedback from various organizations and individuals, including those with lived experience.

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“We have people with lived experience who are also part of our advisory group,” she said.

“This is how we initially found out (this problem) from people with lived experience who told us that this was how I became homeless.”

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The youth homelessness project will last three to four years and include data from 93 young people at three points in time and focus groups.

The project envisages a tailor-made NFA strategy for young people aged 16-24 in collaboration with Youth Opportunities Unlimited and the Children’s Aid Society London and Middlesex. The project is funded by the National Centers of Excellence that make the Shift Youth Social Innovation Lab.

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The project, which focuses on intra-city collaboration, will last for two years and will support an employee of the city’s Coordinated Access Outreach program, who supports people at risk of homelessness to obtain or maintain housing. Ontario Works will assist with income and employment support, and the Salvation Army’s Housing Stability Bank is available for funding if needed.

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As part of this project, 106 participants will be interviewed in the hospital and again six months later. There will also be focus groups with participants, health care providers and community partners. The project is funded by the National Housing Strategy of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

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Forchuk believes London can lead the way in preventing hospital discharges into homelessness.

“When I started working in this field, the only three articles I found on the subject, academic articles, said it was a myth that it didn’t happen. We are now getting evidence that it is happening, ”she said.

“And I think we’ll see that more churches, when they see the problem, are more motivated to deal with the problem, and we’re already getting inquiries from other churches.”

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