News Local

CMHA to combat community’s homelessness issue

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

File photo

File photo

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) — Central Region announced at its AGM earlier this week that it will be making strategic partnerships with other community groups in an attempt to tackle the issue of homelessness within the community.

“Homelessness is an issue we see at CMHA quite often. At least every week we have a handful of people walking into our office saying ‘can you please help me find a place to live?’”, said Jordan Friesen, executive director of the CMHA Central Region. “Whether it’s a new place to live from where they are housed right now or if they are couch surfing and need a place and sometimes they are just downright homeless and living on the street.”

According to Friesen, quantifying Portage’s homelessness issue isn’t easy because there is no centralized data. Many different community groups compile their own information and work to combat the issue, but a communal effort would be far more effective.

That said, Friesen has already began making partnerships with other local groups that deal with the homelessness issue, including the RCMP, woman’s shelter and mental health and crisis services.

“The data exists but at this point it hasn’t been collected so we don’t have a good picture of homelessness,” said Friesen. “We know it exists because we see it come across our doors we just need to have the data to quantify it and then we take action from there.”

The action Friesen speaks of is CMHA’s Housing First program. It’s an initiative that works at finding suitable, stable and affordable housing options for those in need. After that has been accomplished, the next step is to work with those in the program to resolve the underlying mental health issues.

“The issues of homelessness, poverty, mental illness and addiction are all closely intertwined. Our social environment actually has a huge impact on how healthy we are,” he added. “If we want to tackle homelessness we need to have options for getting people housed quickly and affordably and they have to be quality options.”

The CMHA does offer housing in Portage, however spots are in high demand and produce minimal turnover. The organization oversees 28 subsidized suites, all of which are currently full, to go along with it’s three emergency suites used for temporary shelter that are also often spoken for.

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