The country’s capital is making a big effort to help the homeless get back on their feet. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is providing subsidized apartments for those living on the streets, and 22-year-old Mathieu Coderre is proof that the program’s working.
Ten months ago, Coderre was homeless. By day, he aimlessly roamed the streets of Ottawa, and at night, would find a parking garage to sleep in. With no permanent address and a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, Coderre struggled to get a job or the proper help. He lacked stability.
But then came along “housing first,” a key part of CMHA’s program. “When people have appropriate, affordable housing, they are more likely to seek and receive other types of supports that can enhance their quality of life,” says the CMHA’s website. The organization also explains that giving someone who is homeless their own place to live cuts down on the overall cost to taxpayers, reducing things like hospital visits and incarceration.
Today, Coderre is living in a cozy space in the Ottawa area; his caseworker helped him move in last year, and he’s since made a good group of friends. Coderre told CTV that he feels like he has a purpose, and he’s finally able to get the care he needs to manage his mental health.
“I’d say I’ve been doing pretty good,” says Coderre. “If I didn’t have this place, I don’t know where I’d be.”
According to a recent report, there are an estimated 235,000 homeless each year in Canada, with approximately half of these people suffering from mental health or addiction issues.
But Lisa Medd, CMHA’s housing department program manager, remains hopeful. The program has seen a 93 per cent success rate in the first year. “People still struggle in their lives—there will be ups and downs,” she told CTV. “But having that firm foundation, home base, an affordable place to live… keeps things on a more even keel.”
Interested in Coderre and CMHA’s housing initiative? For more information, check out the video above.