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Restoring the comfort of home: Addressing the challenge of placing hard-to-house populations in seniors’ social housing in British Columbia

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Author: Cook, Joshua
Since the early 2000s, tenants of seniors’ social housing in BC have increasingly shared their buildings with younger persons who have severe mental illnesses and/or addiction issues. While this demographic shift does not neatly correspond with a specific policy change, academics, media sources, and the experts and stakeholders interviewed for this report all have suggested that it results from the prioritization of the hard-to-house by the provincial government. For many seniors, this new environment has produced a host of negative outcomes: increased levels of fear; greater social isolation; more disruptive and unpredictable living conditions; and exposure to criminal activity, threats, violence, and other disturbing or dangerous behaviors. This paper examines the emergence of this policy problem and explores possible policy solutions. It does this through a literature review, six case studies from American jurisdictions, and thirteen interviews with experts and stakeholders. Ultimately, the paper recommends two interventions: funding and creating training materials for resident service coordinators, and an environmental scan of the approaches currently being made by the more than 550 non-profit housing organizations which provide nearly 90% of British Columbia’s social housing units.
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