Housing is a Health Issue and a Human Right

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Housing is needed for a healthy life and is widely recognized as a social determinant of health. Housing is also a human right in Canada.[1],[2] Safe, adequate, and affordable housing lays a foundation for people to grow and reach their potential. The health of a population is directly linked with the availability of adequate, affordable housing.[3]

When people have access to housing that meets their needs, they are better able to afford other basic needs like food and are more likely to find a sense of belonging in their community. They have a better chance at a healthy life, free of toxic stress that is associated with chronic poverty and housing insecurity.    

Health Impacts of Homelessness

  • mental health issues
  • substance use disorders
  • injuries
  • chronic diseases, e.g., hypertension, diabetes[4]  

Homelessness and Mental Health

Homelessness and mental illness and/or problematic substance use are often co-occurring conditions. It is often unclear which came first.

People with mental illness are more likely to experience homelessness. The stress of homelessness can worsen symptoms of mental illness including substance use disorders. At the same time, symptoms of mental illness can impact one’s ability to obtain and maintain housing.

Strong community-based mental health and addiction treatment services, housing with mental health support, and using a Housing First approach are critical supports within communities. 

Impacts of Core Housing Need

Many households in the Health Unit region experience what is called core housing need. This means their housing is:

  • inadequate (e.g. requiring major repairs);
  • unsuitable (e.g. overcrowded); and/or
  • unaffordable; and
  • more than 30% of the after-tax household income is spent on housing

Living in core housing need is linked to:

  • increased risk for many health problems
  • negative impacts on children and youth’s physical, mental, developmental, and social health[5]
  • stress among adults and can contribute to substance use as a form of coping[6]
  • added demands on the healthcare system

 Unaffordable housing is linked to food insecurity and inadequate childhood nutrition.[7]

Learn more:

References

  1. Mikkonen, J., & Raphael, D. (2010). Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Toronto: York University School of Health Policy and Management. 
  2. Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. (2021). Human Rights Approach. Retrieved from: https://www.homelesshub.ca/solutions/prevention/human-rights-approach 
  3. Canadian Public Health Association. (2019). Elections 2019 Key Issues. Retrieved from: https://www.cpha.ca/election-2019-key-issues#housing 
  4. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). (2019). Evidence Brief: Homelessness and Health Outcomes: What are the Associations? Toronto, ON: Queen's Printer for Ontario; 2019. 
  5. Canadian Pediatric Society. (2019). Position Statement: Housing need in Canada: Healthy lives start at home. Retrieved from: https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/housing-need#ref13 
  6. Mikkonen, J., & Raphael, D. (2010). Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Toronto: York University School of Health Policy and Management. 
  7. Canadian Pediatric Society. (2019). Position Statement: Housing need in Canada: Healthy lives start at home. Retrieved from: https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/housing-need#ref13 

North Bay

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705-474-1400

Parry Sound

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705-746-5801

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)
1-800-563-2808