I've recently been made aware of a really cool project by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Filmmakers decided to follow the At Home project, a four year study funded by the Government of Canada to learn about the effectiveness of a "housing first" approach compared to traditional programs and supports in place to address homelessness.
I have written about some housing first strategies before. It's a model that I strongly believe in. The basic premise is that by providing people with an affordable place to live (by subsidizing the rent) and bringing supports to them, individuals are more likely to recover from mental illness and addiction, and be less of a drain on expensive services such as hospitals and homeless shelters.
The Here At Home film project starts as a website that shows you a map of the cities where the study is being conducted and provides stats about homelessness. When you click on a city, there will be an associated video you can watch. When one video finishes, it will direct you to the next one. Videos chronicle the stories of study participants including tenants, support workers, and people in the traditional stream of homeless services.
These people are extremely familiar to me, but may not be to most Canadians. I work in a supportive housing program (not one involved in this study) and the stories in the videos show a good reflection of the people and issues I see every day. The filmmakers have not glossed over anything, and I think they have done a good job of showing the successes and the service gaps, the happy stories and the sad.
The best part is that this project isn't over. The study will be completed in March 2013. More videos are being posted in real time as the study continues. The website also features a blog about the project, a timeline of Housing First in Canada and information about the study. The site is interactive and engaging. If you have a chance, I strongly encourage everyone to check it out. I will be following along for the next year or so, and eagerly await the report when the study is completed.
Canada is the only G8 nation without a National Housing Strategy.