Support workers from community agencies work in the building, providing round-the-clock care. The property management built a common area in the basement for counseling, cooking classes and social activities.
Susan Pigott, vice president of communications and community engagement at CAMH, learned a few years ago that new management was fixing up the building. And rent is cheap — around $600 to $650 for a bachelor apartment.
CAMH doesn’t usually partner with private housing providers, but there is a desperate need for affordable housing for people recovering from mental illness, said Pigott. The agency found a willing collaborator in Roslyn Brown, who came to Toronto in 2003 tasked with cleaning up landlord Vincenzo Barrasso’s five notorious highrises.
Pigott said it’s working out.
“We did have misgivings, but I don’t anymore,” said Pigott.
Some patients languish at CAMH for months, even years, at an average cost of $600 a day, not because they require acute hospital care but because they have nowhere to go that offers some support.
There are about 10,000 supportive housing units in Ontario, and the wait-list in Toronto for low- and medium-level support is more than 5,000 long.
Evidence suggests supportive housing for people with mental illness reduces hospital re-admissions, psychiatric symptoms and substance use, according to an October 2012 CAMH report, “Road to Recovery.”