Building Community Society Action Plan: Right to Health and Housing
This is a working document that is subject to change as partnerships and ideas are developed.
BCS is committed to working with, and in service of, people living in poverty and struggling with overwhelming health and housing challenges. These are the people who constantly fall through the cracks of our health and housing systems. Currently we are focusing on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where the failure of our system is most obvious. Our basic premise is that people have a right to housing and health services.
We believe in effective trust-based partnerships that can lead to community-based solutions. We hope to develop those partnerships among local people, community organizations and all levels of government.
The Current Situation:
The plan focuses on a small group of un-housed or precariously housed individuals who suffer from both mental illness and addiction to drugs and/or substances. This group, of at least 300 individuals in the DTES, also suffers from disorders including brain injury, FAS, and trauma exacerbated by their addictions and mental illness. These same individuals are often unable to access the housing and health supports they need, either because those supports do not exist, because they do not have the financial resources to access private services or because of their individual behavioral or cognitive challenges. This group is in chronic and severe crisis much of the time and, for all practical purposes, abandoned on our streets and in our parks. They deserve and have a right to health care, psychiatric and addiction treatment as well as housing options and supports that will enable them to achieve a healthy and stable life.
Our goal at BCS is to walk with this group, who suffer from the triple challenge of poverty, mental illness and substance dependency, every step of the way along a continuum of care toward a life free from the pain and indignity that are the consequence of their health and addiction issues. We know, through our work in this area, that many people need and want to avail themselves of an effective treatment path but need continuous, unbroken support to achieve their goals. Our plan would address this gap in health and addiction care.
The BCS Action Plan – Main Points
BCS, with board members from key government ministries, City of Vancouver, representatives, community members and non-profits will plan, organize and implement stages of the Action Plan. No plan, including this one, can be effective without this kind of broad based input and support. It is proposed that the Secretariat report to the Premier’s office.
The BCS Secretariat will be given the authority to gather the needed housing, health, addiction treatment and justice information required to allow a coordinated and integrated approach to analyzing, disseminating and performing needed outcome evaluations. This will allow meaningful direction of resources toward the gaps in the housing and health continuum needed to make a significant contribution to solutions for the group of individuals we wish to serve. There is currently no organized way to track service across service providers to determine who is being served, or if that service is consistent and effective.
Privacy issues regarding data will be addressed. Anonymized data will allow for an analysis of the reasons why some individuals cycle in and out of supportive housing or the justice and health systems. This analysis will inform the focus and design of both treatment and housing options. Individual data will be obtained by consent of the individual served and will depend on the cooperation of those holding the personal information to share it once permission is granted.
The BCS Secretariat will continue to coordinate the Action Plan after implementation and will be responsible for management of the clinical programs and housing ladder/continuum, staying with the individuals in need throughout every step of their recovery. It will present annual program reports focusing on metrics of populations served as well as quantitative and qualitative outcome measures of improvement and recovery.
Action Plan Operational elements
- Operations Centre – community base for Outreach Team, Housing Programs, and program entry point.
- Multidisciplinary Outreach Teams – intensive psychiatric, addiction, medical treatment and follow up. This team will function for individuals through all stages of the treatment path.
- Inpatient treatment unit for mentally ill, severely addicted individuals. Modeled on the Portage program in Montreal.
- Addictions Program – after stabilization of psychiatric illnesses, for up to 3 years
- Housing - A housing continuum (see accompanying document on housing continuance) can provide a path to autonomy at a level that is personally achievable. The housing needed by people, who suffer from a combination of brain injury, mental illness and substance use, changes depending on the severity, treatment and supports they need for these conditions.