Pubdate: Mon, 20 Oct 2008
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Colette Derworiz, Calgary Herald


Program Has Helped 36 So Far

A program helping homeless people who struggle with mental illness and
addictions has helped 36 people -- including one man who was homeless
for 20 years -- find permanent housing since it started nearly a year

The one-year pilot project, called Pathways to Housing and funded by
$1.4 million from the provincial government, was the first initiative
of the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness.

It started last December with a goal to find housing for 50 people
within its first year.

"We are currently at 36," said Dr. Pam Thompson, director of Pathways
to Housing, who will provide an update on the program at today's
annual general meeting of the Alex Community Health Centre. "We have
30 men and six women enrolled.

"All of our clients have mental illness . . . and many of our clients
have addictions as well."

Prior to the program, many addicts or people with mental health issues
were discharged from hospital to homeless shelters or the street.

But Thompson's team -- which includes psychiatrists, family doctors
and various specialists -- works with the Calgary Health Region to
identify potential clients and move them from hospital into a place of
their own.

The team then provides 24 hour a day, seven day a week support to both
the client and the landlord.

"This really is not a Band-Aid solution," said Thompson. "This is
solving a problem: You are ending homelessness by giving someone a
home and then you are giving them the supports that they need in a way
that is important to them to help them accomplish what they need in
their life.

"It's pretty amazing."

The program is also drawing praise from the provincial minister in
charge of housing and urban affairs.

"It's an excellent program," said Yvonne Fritz, who noted housing
programs are a priority for the provincial government as it prepares
to unveil its own 10-year plan to end homelessness this fall. "You
will see more about those types of programs."

Fritz said she is also working hard to ensure funding continues for
those programs already in place.

The program costs about $35,000 per person, while providing services
to those same people while they're living on the street and using
health services is estimated at $100,000 a year. 
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