Improved access to quality, affordable independent housing—that offers a continuum of supports—has long been a need in London. The lack of housing has been a barrier to discharge for many [of the] clients we serve in our mental health program at St. Joseph’s Health Care London—and has also been a need of clients served by our various partners. Indwell has stepped up to become an invaluable partner, creating 70 new supported, affordable living apartment units in their Woodfield Gate development on Dundas Street which opened [in] July of this year. They have plans to create further opportunities both in London and St. Thomas over the next two years. With a vision of “Hope and Homes for All,” Indwell is “a Christian charity that supports individuals who are seeking health, wellness and belonging.”
Their goal is to build supported, attractive, safe, and well-maintained communities for tenants to live, grow, and recover within—guided by mission-aligned values such as dignity, hope, love, and sustainability.
Indwell has engaged a number of London agencies including St. Joseph’s, LHSC, Canadian Mental Health Association, London Affordable Housing Foundation, City of London, London Housing Development Corporation, and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation with a vision of building better environments that improve the quality of life for their tenants while giving back to the local community around their projects by becoming good neighbours.
Indwell has brought a unique solution, offering alternatives to hospitalization for individuals who have been historically poorly served in our housing community. At Parkwood Institute Mental Health, many individuals would be considered “homeless in hospital.” As we seek to improve access to hospital beds, alternative models of housing that include in situ high supports—which promote successful discharge from hospital and ongoing tenancy—are key. Indwell has brought this model to London, along with a willingness to partner on some targeted sub-populations, such as those with developmental disabilities or higher-level physical care needs (who may need even more than traditional high support housing in order to live independently).
In June 2017, a patient of mine was evicted from his home after his mother was placed in a nursing home. For many years, this same man who struggled with schizophrenia and alcohol misuse was able to stay out of the hospital and in safe and stable housing while his mother supported him. All of that changed when his mother’s physical and cognitive health declined. For almost two years he lived in a shelter. He had refused to consider a group home as he struggles with sleep, and group homes are not receptive to residents being up and going for a walk daily at 5 am. When he lost his housing, he had one request of his clinician with the Concurrent Disorder Program. He asked that we store his extensive collection of books, as reading was his greatest pleasure. It was impossible for him to keep more than one book while living in the shelter. Remarkably, in the time this man was in shelter, he was able to abstain from alcohol with only one or two lapses.
In late August, he came to my office and told me he had fantastic news. He had been accepted to Indwell. He then asked that myself and his nurse help him compile a list of supplies that he would need in order to move into his apartment. He shared with me that it would be important to keep his new home clean, but that cleaning supplies were expensive. He was excited about moving out of the shelter and having a place that was truly his own. He was excited that he could lock a door and feel safe at night. He was excited that he would have his belongings and not worry about them being stolen. And, more importantly, he was excited that he could have his books. All of them.
One of the benefits of Indwell is that it is not transitional housing. For those who choose, it can be their forever home. I am pleased to recognize Indwell as St. Joseph’s community partner of distinction. They offer hope, safety, security, and stability in housing so that those we serve have the best opportunity for recovery, and for becoming successful and contributing members of our London community. We would very much like to recognize the hard work that Indwell has undertaken to build the needed relationships within London and across our region that have led to the opening of Woodfield Gate. We hope for many more successful projects and programs to come.
This speech was delivered during an awards ceremony on October 31, 2019.