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Examining homelessness

Posted Monday, November 23, 2009 4:00 PM

More than 500 people in Winnipeg who are homeless and living with a mental illness are being recruited to participate in Canada’s largest-ever study on the issue. The Winnipeg At Home project is aimed at providing people with stable, long-term housing and supports, with particular attention to the Aboriginal population. Using a $3.75 million grant provided by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, The University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies (IUS) and the University of Manitoba’s Departments of Psychiatry and Community Health Sciences form the core research team.

The At Home/ Chez Soi Project was launched concurrently today in Toronto and in the other four participating cities: Winnipeg, Moncton, Vancouver and Montreal.

The Winnipeg At Home Project will result in 300 people presently homeless being offered housing in neighbourhoods throughout Winnipeg. Those with highest needs will have access to 24 hour support.

“The University of Manitoba has a long-standing commitment to working with and serving the needs of the people of Manitoba,” says David Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba. “Through this project, our researchers will be working directly with members of our community to identify solutions to homelessness and in so doing, pursue the fundamental human right to a secure place to live.”

“To my knowledge, this national project on homelessness and mental illness is the largest randomized controlled trial ever conducted in Canada,” says Jitender Sareen, Director of Research and Anxiety Services at the University of Manitoba, and co-investigator on the local project. “The findings from this important study will have national and international relevance for policymakers, and will specifically help the thousands of homeless people in Canada. I am honoured to be part of this important work.”

Local estimates contend that 70 per cent of the homeless population in Winnipeg is Aboriginal. The Winnipeg research team will work in partnership and cooperation with three primary agencies that will deliver a “Housing First” approach (a focus on providing housing, then offering necessary services and supports): Mount Carmel Clinic, Ma Mawi Chi Itata Centre and the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre. The project team is supported and guided by the advice of an Urban Aboriginal Lens Committee consisting of community elders and cultural teachers.

The overall intent of the four-year demonstration project is to test and assess whether a proven housing intervention is effective in the Canadian context, with the ultimate goal to work toward long term sustainability.

Sareen adds: “What surprises people most is that being homeless and on the streets can cost more than sheltering someone and providing them with services and supports.”


First Nations youth suicide study supported by RBC Foundation

(L-R) Garry Munro, Executive Director, Cree Nation Tribal Health Centre; Holly Toupin, Regional Vice-President, RBC Royal Bank; Dr. Jitender Sareen, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Youth suicide and suicide attempts have become a major problem among First Nations communities living on reserves. In order to counteract this troubling trend, the Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Health Sciences has worked with the Swampy Cree Tribal Council to improve the understanding of the risk factors for suicide among Aboriginal populations and to determine individual, community and school –based interventions to reduce suicidal behavior. Now the Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team is ready to push their efforts further with a research study that aims to identify youth at risk for suicide.

This research project has now earned the support of RBC Foundation, who presented a cheque in the amount of $20,000 to project leaders Garry Munro, Executive Director, Cree Nation Tribal Health Centre and Dr. Jitender Sareen, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine on November 2, 2009. RBC’s investment will play a significant role in providing these First Nations communities with evidence for policymakers to make decisions that will reduce the risk of suicide among youth groups determined to be at risk.

“I hope this is a stepping stone to find answers and create healing among Swampy Cree children and communities,” said Holly Toupin, Regional Vice-President, RBC Royal Bank.

The RBC Foundation has had a long standing relationship with the University of Manitoba and First Nations Communities. One of their philanthropic objectives is making a difference in the area of mental health among children. The RBC Foundation has donated over $1.5 million nationally to this issue.

"This is an exciting and important project developed in active collaboration with Swampy Cree Tribal communities," said Dr. Sareen. “This new partnership with the RBC Foundation facilitates the capacity to do important suicide prevention work in remote communities.”

The Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team has already helped to implement the suicide prevention program, SafeTALK. Over the past year, they held community advisory meeting in eight Swampy Cree Communities. The program complements a two-day training program called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) that aims to improve community members’ ability to recognize those who may be suicidal and to help them get care. The three-hour SafeTALK program is offered to the entire community and is designed to ensure that persons with thoughts of suicide are connected to helpers who are prepared to provide first aid interventions. In community consultations, there was overwhelming feedback that this intervention would be highly useful in First Nations communities.


Faculty Research Forums

2009 Faculty Research Forum

HSC/SBGH Faculty Development Meetings

Faculty Retreat, November 30 - December 1, 2007

2004 SBGH Faculty Development Meeting

2003 HSC Faculty Development Meeting

Miscellaneous Announcements/Events

MD Care Debut Makes Headlines (PDF)

Dr. Mark Prober Wins Royal College Award (2003)