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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Montreal film, It Happened To Me“, with Karen Foster, Banting Post-Doctoral Fellow in Management and part-time faculty in Sociology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She co-authored the book, “Reimagining Intervention in Young Lives” (UBC Press, 2012), which focused on the everyday lives of young unemployed people in Ottawa, most of whom were homeless or had recently transitioned into housing. She is also the author of Generation, Discourse and Social Change (Routledge, 2013). Her main research interests are in the sociology of work and economic discourse.

In this video, we meet Paul, a once-homeless amputee who has been given a home through the At Home/Chez Soi project. The video focuses on Paul’s experience with IPS, the employment program that got the former special needs educator back to work in his field.

Paul’s story highlights, first, just how important work can be, beyond the fact that it provides income and the possibility of self-sustenance: having meaningful work makes the difference between living a life and just surviving day to day. For Paul, the meaning comes from the feeling of being “in one’s element,” but it also doubtlessly comes from being able to help other people through his work. If it were not for people like Paul, programs like IPS, and the precarious network of informal social services that fill the gaps left by inadequate federal social programs, many more people would be left to face their challenges alone.

Indeed, Paul’s challenges with housing, health, and employment hinge on the fact that he has “no family” in a social system that depends on families taking responsibility for their own. Interestingly, his story intersects with the stories of others whose families bear most of the burden for their needs – in this case, the special needs arising from Down’s Syndrome – in the absence of social programs substantial enough to take on the bulk of their care.

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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Toronto film, “Money Changes You,” with Naheed Dosani and Adam Whisler. Naheed is a Family Medicine Resident Physician with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and is training at St. Michael’s Hospital; Adam is a Research Coordinator for the At Home/Chez Soi Demonstration Project at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital.

While the At Home study focuses on mental health issues, often participants, like James in “Money Changes You,” have physical health problems as well. Picking up on this element of the film, Naheed and Adam discuss the experiences of one such participant and propose better ways of addressing the problems he faced.

Sayid is a 65 year old South Asian man from Toronto. He has schizophrenia, but with the proper medications and supports, his illness is well controlled, allowing him to work full-time in a manufacturing job. For years, like many of Toronto’s working poor, he lived paycheque to paycheque. When his company underwent downsizing, Sayid lost his job and then his home. Shunned by his cultural community due to stigma and without a network of support to rely on, he turned to Toronto’s shelter system for a safe place to stay. After suffering an assault and robbery one night at the hands of others living at the shelter, Sayid was left without any of his belongings, including his medications. Fearing for his safety, Sayid fled from Toronto’s streets to seek shelter in a tent in the Don River Valley, where he has lived on and off for the past ten years.
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