With the shortage of affordable housing across the country and the ongoing restructuring of the health care system, community-based agencies and advocates have been working to find adequate housing for discharged psychiatric patients/psychiatric survivors. This Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and initially received $584,879 over a three-year period. A CURA continuation grant totalling $400,000 awarded by SSHRC extended funding until 2006. This CURA used a participatory action research design, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative measures, to facilitate a capacity-building and community-development approach to address issues of mental health and housing. An annual conference was used to gather input from the community at large to promote understanding at all levels of society of issues relevant to mental health and housing. These annual conferences were used as a forum to identify problem areas of mental health and housing and develop realistic action plans with the community in finding solutions.

     In this CURA, researchers, social service professionals, community volunteers, as well as individuals who have experienced mental health challenges, collaborated on a number of related projects to evaluate existing models of supported housing. This CURA developed a template which sought to explore and understand which type of housing works best for whom, and improve placement success. This participatory approach to research gave a real voice to a marginalized constituency, enabling them to share their insights and opinions with community and academic partners and to develop working relationships within their own community as well as between consumer, social agency, professional, and academic communities.

     Annual survey interviews with 300 psychiatric survivors and their caregivers were conducted in a community-based sample, providing the opportunity for numerous sub-analyses. The sample was stratified by gender and by type of housing. About half of this sample represented a longitudinal sample. In addition to these surveys, individual and focus group interviews were conducted. Additional groups of stakeholders were also sampled, including psychiatric survivors, their family members and other primary caregivers, health and social care providers, employers, and decision-makers. Policies, grey literature, and written media reports that related to the study were also examined.

Based in London, Ontario, the project served as a valuable model for other regions