No Fixed Address V2 houses half of those in danger of homelessness
LONDON, ON – At a community symposium on health care and homelessness attended by over 250 Londoners, a research team from Lawson Health Research Institute announced the results of a nine-month, federally funded project tackling the issue of homelessness from within hospital walls.
The No Fixed Address (NFA) strategy reaches and supports patients during the crucial transitional period when they are being discharged from the hospital and re-integrated into the community. The approach was initially tested with strong success for mental health patients across the city and the second ‘version’ of the project was extended to medical units at London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital and Victoria Hospital.
“Many of our patients with lived experience of homelessness were saying that their journey started with a hospital discharge,” explains Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Assistant Scientific Director at Lawson and NFA project lead. “They were often experiencing major transitions in their lives and then experienced a hospital stay. Normally a relatively short visit, they aren’t able to gather the information and make a plan to be able to leave the hospital with somewhere to stay.”
Through partnerships between service providers and non-profit organizations, the NFA strategy helps prevent homelessness by providing timely and accessible supports to patients who would otherwise be discharged into homelessness. Community partners include Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex, Ontario Works in the City of London and the Salvation Army’s Housing Stability Bank.
“Lawson’s No Fixed Address research project is the first evaluation anywhere of a strategy that aims to reduce the number of hospital patients being discharged into homelessness,” says Dr. Forchuk.
Over nine months, 74 people experiencing medical health issues accessed the NFA program. Of those, 54 per cent were also experiencing mental health challenges.
All of the study participants were in imminent danger of homelessness. Through the supports provided as part of this research study, half were able to arrange housing before being discharged.
“We were able to help a lot of people, with 50 per cent successfully securing housing,” shares Dr. Forchuk. “With the results and feedback we received, we learned a lot about how we can make the program even better.”
They found that there is a need for the supports to be extended as a transitional program in the community post-discharge, as the length of stay in the medical units tended to be short.
The project’s previous phase, involving acute and tertiary psychiatric care in the London region, prevented homelessness in 95 per cent of cases. “Going into the medical units, we found that people have highly complex needs that often involved mental health challenges. By simply using the same approach that we did for those in psychiatric care, we helped half of the people find housing. To best serve the needs of everyone, we want to follow them after discharge.”
The team sees a solution in having a housing support worker provide transitional, wrap-around services that follow the person. They would continue to meet and work together after the hospital stay, helping to access community programs.
“This role would be embedded in both the health care system and the homeless serving system, supporting individuals who have complex physical and mental health issues as they are also navigating homeless resources.”
This project is funded by the Government of Canada's Homelessness Partnering Strategy’s (HPS) Innovative Solutions to Homelessness funding stream.
Lawson Health Research Institute is one of Canada’s top hospital-based research institutes, tackling the most pressing challenges in health care. As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, our innovation happens where care is delivered. Lawson research teams are at the leading-edge of science with the goal of improving health and the delivery of care for patients. Working in partnership with Western University, our researchers are encouraged to pursue their curiosity, collaborate often and share their discoveries widely. Research conducted through Lawson makes a difference in the lives of patients, families and communities around the world. To learn more, visit www.lawsonresearch.ca.
Communications Consultant & External Relations
Lawson Health Research Institute
T: 519-685-8500 ext. 75664