Researchers from Western University recently concluded a case study of Woodfield Gate in London with their findings reinforcing the idea that wraparound supports are the best way of serving the homeless population.
Woodfield Gate is a "supportive permanent housing building" located on Dundas Street near downtown. It is Indwell's first site in London and welcomed 30 unhoused people from the streets and long-term mental health facilities.
When Western nursing professor Abe Oudshoorn caught wind of the new housing option for Londoners in need, he was inclined to dig deeper and learn more about Woodfield Gate's service model.
A team of researchers from Western's Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion joined Oudshoorn in his probe of the facility. Over a period of two years, they spoke directly with residents and collected quantitative health data, with a special focus on the "most vulnerable," or those who experience chronic homelessness and health or mental health challenges.
What researchers found to be most crucial to keeping unhoused people in permanent supportive housing was the provision of wraparound services such as onsite healthcare, medication management, check-ins with mental health and social workers, and meal programs.
“What differentiates housing for the most vulnerable and marginalized is the support piece. That’s what was missing that created their homelessness, and that’s what’s needed to end their homelessness,” said Oudshoorn.
The study suggests that housing options offering more than just bricks and mortar are more sustainable in the long-term. Woodfield Gate residents reported affordability, a sense of community, and available and timely supports were key to keeping them housed.
The researchers lamented that supportive permanent housing models such as these are not built into the National Housing Strategy, claiming there is no clear pathway for non-profit housing providers to access funding for these on-site supports.
But there is hope, according to the research team, as the strategy is currently under review.
"It’s no surprise to anyone that we are in a housing crisis, and the National Housing Strategy should be our pathway out of it. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting, and that’s failing to prioritize those who have the most needs," said Oudshoorn. "So, I hope that our governments see the value of this model and will find ways to fund the supports and care that will make affordable housing also permanent housing."
The full report of this research is available online.