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Canadian Mental Health Association Houses the Homeless, Less Fortunate

cmha-logoExpanding on an idea born in New York City 20 years ago, Ottawa and other cities across North America are making an effort to provide housing to those less fortunate or in difficult financial predicaments.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) owns 32 condos all over the city which it rents to people with severe mental illnesses. Many of these people used to be homeless, or have major drug and alcohol issues before the CMHA stepped in.
The CMHA provides its units to those undergoing treatment programs for addictions, however, it not the only condition the agency requires to qualify for a home. In some instances, addicts who leave their rehab programs are allowed to continue living in the units. The CHMA believes that everyone deserves a right to home.

“Housing should never be dependent upon taking your medication or agreeing to see a social worker: housing is a basic human right,” says Donna Pettey, the CMHA’s director of operations.

The housing project started eight years ago when the CMHA was granted over $2 million in federal funding to purchase the condo units. After doing some research, the agency found that homeless or mentally ill people preferred to live in a typical neighbourhood rather than in a community designated for the mentally ill.

The program is rooted in a “housing first” philosophy. They believe that drug addicts and alcoholics should never be denied housing; rather than relocating from shelter to shelter, these people need real homes to grow and get well.

To find homes in Ottawa, contact Chris Coveny at

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