Community supportive housing: a pathway to environmental health equity

by Robert Huff


Community supportive housing a pathway to environmental health equitySupportive housing strives to help individuals reclaim their rightful role as citizens. Citizenship begins with a stable place to live and  is fostered by supports to equip people to address their immediate issues so they can begin to look beyond their own concerns and feel part of their community. (image: Ecuhome Corporation, Apartments, Parkdale – Toronto Canada)

This is exercised when people have a say in the decisions that affect them  –  all fundamental aspects for building healthy and equitable communities.

For those facing some of life’s most challenging problems such as homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental health, family and personal issues, supportive housing not only provides a safe and clean place to live, but each person is assigned a housing support worker, not by a number, but by a name. Working together a plan is developed with neighbourhood and city supports that enable an individual to deal with their specific life challenges.

Shared supportive homes in Parkdale are typically larger century homes, fully furnished with a front and back yard. This “home” setting provides an opportunity to gain “daily living skills”.  Many of us take for granted the ability to do our own grocery shopping, cook our own meals and maintain daily household chores. But for many that face barriers in their everyday lives; these simple daily activities can seem “out of reach”. Many residents for the first time have an opportunity to grow vegetable gardens, participate in the curb appeal of their homes and engage in greening projects.   For example Ecuhome supports an energy conservation program that includes turning off lights, washing clothes at non-peak hours, keeping windows closed when the air conditioning is running, and putting toxic chemicals , garbage, recycling, and organic waste into the proper bins; using the clothesline in summer, and watering the garden from the rain barrel.

The outcome? The ability to regain control of one’s life – stability, self respect, self confidence, education, employment and real life positive changes. Not only are personal issues addressed, there is often a real sense of belonging to a community and opportunity to participate in this community.

Robert Huff is the Community Project Coordinator and Knowledge Translation Liaison for the SUCCEED research project. Ecuhome Corporation provides subsidized supportive housing for  678 residents in 58 shared houses and 6 apartment buildings in Toronto, Ontario Canada.