Housing for People with Schizophrenia: Recommendations to Service Providers
The recommendations below were produced as part of a participatory action research project that investigated housing for people with schizophrenia. The research was conducted by members of the Peer support Unsung Heroes Program, Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, Calgary Chapter, led by Dr. Barbara Schneider from the University of Calgary. The main theme arising from the research is the tension between care and control in relationships between people with schizophrenia and their housing and medical service providers. These recommendations reflect the voices and views of people with schizophrenia.
- Have a central agency for the city that knows about all the housing options for people with mental illnesses. Make sure that one person from this agency follows a person right through the system, A to Z, from homeless to housed, so people do not get lost in the system.
- We need an advocate to mediate disputes between people with mental illnesses and housing providers or landlords.
- Provide more education about mental illness to housing service providers and landlords. Many lack compassion and do not treat us with respect and dignity.
- Families can be an important stopgap that catches you before you fall to the streets. Provide education for families about different housing options and offer more support for families.
- Provide support to help us as we get more independence. We are very fragile when we start to do things and need help with doing taxes, saving money, learning about insurance, providing for ourselves in the future, and managing stress.
Reducing Control while Providing Care
- Don’t ask us for compliance. Work with us to help us make choices but do not tell us what we have to do. We do not want to be forced to live the way you think we should live.
- Don’t make us share with roommates unless we are willing to.
- The fact that we are living with a mental illness and on disability pension does not mean that you have a right to intrude into our lives. Don’t ask us to expose our whole lives.
- Simplify the AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) system. Right now, if you start to work, the paperwork required by AISH is overwhelming. It makes you not want to work. As you start working, it should be easier instead of more complicated.
Expanding Access to Housing
- We should be able to live where we want to live. Most of us dream of living in our own homes in the community. Help us to make this a reality.
- Housing should be permanent. We should not be moved without our consent. We should not have to move just because we reach age 65 or don’t “fit in” to particular housing.
- Housing should be flexible to accommodate people’s needs. Provide more different ways of housing people, including people who have pets.
- We need rent controls and more subsidized and affordable housing. Society has to make this a priority. Provincial and federal governments could give tax incentives for affordable housing or require that builders make a certain percentage of their units affordable housing. We must find the political will to have more subsidized and affordable housing.