People with lived experience of mental health and addictions conditions are disproportionately affected by homelessness. An estimated 25 to 50 per cent of people who are homeless live with a mental health condition. For people living with a mental illness, safe and affordable housing can provide a place to live in dignity and move towards recovery. Supportive housing is recognized as a vital part of solutions to chronic homeliness, to helping people find and maintain stable housing, and to ensure people with MHA issues have access to supports that promote health and wellbeing.

Permanent supportive housing is broadly defined as long-term, affordable housing that is coupled with the provision of ongoing community mental health services designed to support people with mental health and substance use conditions preserve their tenancy and address unmet care needs.

Within Toronto, the escalating waitlist for supportive housing has created greater urgency for sector-wide planning to respond the needs and situation of individuals seeking supportive housing. In collaboration with supportive housing providers, coordinated access services, think tanks and academic centres, CMHA has undertaken research that supports local planning initiatives by increasing understanding of the needs of people accessing supportive housing and identifying service models to address the diversity and complexity of these needs.

Toronto Supportive Housing Growth Plan: Needs Assessment – In Progress

Toronto is facing unprecedented levels of homelessness, at the same time as more than 20,000 people are waiting for mental health and addictions (MHA) supportive housing. Addressing the current and future scale of demand for supportive housing requires both government-led solutions and more coordinated, sector-led solutions. Alongside the urgent need for more supportive housing, there are opportunities to create a comprehensive supportive housing growth strategy. Leveraging these opportunities requires a clearer understanding of the typology of housing and supports required to match need, and alignment among supportive housing providers on how to prioritize needs.

Rooted in efforts to meet the growing need for supportive housing, research is underway to develop the Toronto Supportive Housing Growth Plan (SHGP). This research was co-convened by CMHA Toronto, the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness and the Wellesley Institute with generous financial support from CMHA Ontario, the United Way of Greater Toronto and BGM Strategy. The SHGP will help position the supportive housing sector to increase the supply of supportive housing in Toronto, to come to alignment on how to prioritize need, and to develop impactful solutions targeted at need.

The SHGP consists of several components, including an Asset Inventory that quantifies existing housing stock, land and rent supplements, a Funding Analysis to understand how government funding can be applied more strategically to better meet needs, and a Need Assessment of mental health and addictions supportive housing that provides research on key challenges and pathways forward for developing responses, and includes a summary of evidence and best practices on housing and supports.

The Needs Assessment is being undertaken by researchers at CMHA and the Wellesley Institute. The Needs Assessment will:

  • Identify the strengths of the existing MHA supportive housing sector in Toronto
  • Examine challenges experienced by MHA supportive housing service users and providers
  • Estimate the number of MHA supportive housing units required over the next 10 years to meet projected need
  • Inform sector- and provider-level strategies to address existing challenges and shortfalls within the supportive housing sector.

For more information about this study, contact Frank Sirotich at

Examining the Need Profile of Supportive Housing Applicants with and without Current Justice Involvement: A Cross-Sectional Study

Frank Sirotich, Kamalpreet Rakhra
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 2021; Advance online publication.

This study compared the characteristics and support needs of applicants to support housing with and without justice involvement. The strongest predictors of having justice involvement were a history of physical assaults, homelessness, problematic substance use, male gender and younger age. Development of justice-focused supportive housing models may be considered where traditional housing and support services are supplemented with evidence-based intervention targeting factors associated with increased risk of recidivism.

Request the Article

Justice-focused Mental Health Supportive Housing in Toronto: Needs Assessment and Action Plan

Steve Lurie, Jessica Petrillo, Frank Sirotich, Greg Suttor, Irma Molina, Dana Granofsky, Lynette Katsivo
Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, CMHA Toronto, Wellesley Institute, 2020

Many people living with mental health and addictions issues are caught in a cycle of homelessness, police encounters, court hearings, hospital stays and incarceration. This results in significant public costs related to incarceration, policing, hospital use, and use of shelters and other services. It also severely impacts the well-being and recovery of people caught in this cycle.

Seeking Supportive Housing: Characteristics, Needs and Outcomes of Applicants to The Access Point: Toronto Mental Health and Addictions Access Point Waiting List Analysis

Frank Sirotich, Anna Durbin, Greg Suttor, Seong-gee Um and Lin Fang
The Access Point, CMHA Toronto, Wellesley Institute, 2018.

In collaboration with The Access Point, researchers from CMHA, the Wellesley Institute and the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto undertook an analysis of the characteristics and needs of applicants to the mental health and addictions (MHA) supportive housing system in Toronto. The study examines the characteristics of applicants, their support needs and housing preferences, and the patterns of referral, wait times and service request outcomes for those who apply. The data analysed were extracted from the administrative database of The Access Point, the coordinated access system for the MHA supportive housing sector in Toronto. Both a technical report and a summary report of key findings and recommendations are available.

Full Report
Summary Report

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