The Circle of Care housing program provides much needed housing for vulnerable populations on the North Shore. The program allows residents to see beyond their immediate survival needs and start to imagine both short- and long-term goals for their lives, as well as providing them with a safe place to be themselves and be accepted for who they are.
Circle of Care currently houses 16 individuals across three homes on the North Shore, two for single men and one for women. Residents of these homes have experienced a great deal of trauma and difficulty finding safe and affordable housing. We recently scaled up the program to open our third Circle of Care home in 2021.
The Circle of Care program resulted from a need to address the region’s housing crisis. Decent, safe, and affordable housing is one of the most important factors affecting mental health. Inadequate housing—too expensive, run-down or over-crowded—can lead to poor overall health and can make recovery from mental health or substance use problems much more difficult. Housing is not just about a house—it is part of a path to safety, security, connectedness, acceptance, and belonging.
The Circle of Care program aims to:
- Provide individuals living with mental health and addiction with supported, safe, and secure housing that builds community
- Engage community partners in action around housing, encouraging relationship building and mutual understanding
- Demonstrate a housing solution built on compassion and centered on the individual that successfully houses vulnerable people, provides wrap-around services, and allows individuals to thrive.
How the program works
Circle of Care is a transition to independent living, with residents living in one of the Circle of Care homes cooperatively and independently but with plenty of support. An outreach worker for each home helps create cohesion, community connection, and maintains the home while building residents’ life skills. Health Connections Clinic provides medical support either at the clinic or through their Outreach Nurse Practitioner.
A dedicated housing coordinator provides coordination, oversight, administration, and coaching. This includes administering agreements with residents, establishing and enforces ground rules, overseeing transitions in and out of the homes, collecting rent, and hosting regular check-ins to establish and monitor goals and progress on residents’ recovery journeys.
Residents contribute to rent as part of learning to budget and cover their expenses. Many residents live with disabilities and are on provincial assistance or working in minimum wage positions. We charge below market rent and residents contribute food and a portion of utilities. The portion paid by residents does not cover the monthly costs of rent and bills. CMHA staff provides additional healthy groceries.
CMHA NWV identifies residents through our Homeless Outreach Program. Residents must:
- Have a diagnosis of mental illness (e.g. PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Have a history of or significant risk of homelessness
- Be open to building new relationships and friendships
- Be connected to CMHA’s Homeless Outreach worker
- Become a client of VCH Health Connections Clinic
I have learned that housing is the first pillar of independent, stable living. Until you find stable, safe housing, you cannot focus on anything else. Housing stability leads to increased chances of employment stability, connection to community services and resources, building connections and establishing roots in the community, and better mental, physical, and social health.” —Maryam Alghamdi, CMHA NWV Housing and Outreach Coordinator
Benefits to the community
A BC study found that a person experiencing homelessness with addictions and/or mental illness used $55,000 per year in health care and/or corrections services compared to $37,000 for a person in supportive housing. Another study showed that every dollar invested in supportive housing creates four to five dollars in social and/or economic value. (BC Housing: Community Benefits of Supportive Housing)
The Circle of Care program benefits the North Shore community in numerous ways:
- Every individual we support reduces the stress on the community’s police, health services, and other social service providers
- The program builds community resilience and understanding of mental illness
- Relationship building among our committed community partners including sharing life skills, spending time with residents, and building bridges, all enrich our community.
The past two years have shown us that mental health is more important than ever. The origin of the Circle of Care housing program is inspiring: all the members of a community coming together to care for those with mental health challenges.” —Michael Boehm, Executive Director, North Shore Community Foundation
The Circle of Care program works with various North Shore community partners to offer a safe space for individuals ready to start their wellness journeys. These include Health Connections Clinic, which provides medical support, and faith community partners North Shore Alliance Church and Capilano Christian Community, which build meaningful connections with the participants.
Our church community is focused on supporting those who are homeless and often mental health issues contribute to their situation. We have supported the CMHA’s Circle of Care program because it makes available the framework and expertise to provide both a home and professional support to those most in need in our community.” —Brad Boyd, donor
How you can help
The cost for one resident to live in the wrap-around care that Circle of Care provides is $20,000 annually ($1,250 monthly). Your support is crucial in helping change the lives of precariously-housed individuals on the North Shore.