Press release: “Mental illness is not the problem, it’s a symptom” – Mental health and housing in the Downtown Eastside report launched TODAY

Unceded territories, November 13, 2019 – “Mental illness is not the problem, it’s a symptom. A symptom of a homeless person who is self-medicating with alcohol and drugs to mask the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.”

We hear over and over the significance of housing on health. Housing and access to housing is considered a huge component of stabilization of mental health. Non-profit housing providers often have mandates and policies that reflect this — but what are their actual impacts? 

For the past three years, the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) and Gallery Gachet have engaged in research and a community visioning process around housing and mental health. In the earlier phases, community members shared their vision of what makes a house a home and what type of housing best supports their mental health.

This year, the groups looked at models, policies and supports that affect mental health in non-market housing. What are the benefits of including tenants with lived experience and recognizing them as experts in their own health? What makes housing that is conducive to mental health?

A new report, released today, reviews housing policy and practice in the Downtown Eastside, correlating service delivery to criteria identified by participants in the earlier phase of the project. 

Erica Grant became a member of the Carnegie Community Action Project because she was tired of being homeless. A peer researcher on the Mental Health Project, she says, “Homelessness is an ongoing issue in the DTES and everywhere else for that matter. What is it? Human beings wanting a home somewhere out of the elements, human beings being deprived of basic necessity. But housing itself has a massive impact – look at how other cities address mental health through creative housing models and environments.”

Housing providers in the Downtown Eastside were surveyed about tenant involvement in decision-making and advisory roles, programs and amenities. This report provides the results. 

“Its hard to be healthy on the streets. Let’s bring people together. Housing can be healing,” says Erica.

A copy of the report can be found here:

The report was researched and written by Erica Grant, Anthony Meza-Wilson, Fiona York, Chanon Lui and Cecily Nicholson and was funded by the City of Vancouver.

More information:

Through research, outreach, and community organizing, the Mental Health Project will further the meaningful engagement of DTES residents in developing a model for successful mental health housing and community planning processes.

Erica Grant
Mental Health Peer Researcher
Carnegie Community Action Project
(778) 919-4612

Fiona York
Coordinator and Administrator
Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP)
c/o Carnegie Centre, 401 Main Street, Vancouver
Unceded Coast Salish Territories, BC V6A 2T7

Gallery Gachet
9 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Unceded Coast Salish Territories, BC V6B 1G4

CCAP works on housing, income and land use issues in the DTES so that the area can remain a community that centres on low income people. CCAP works with DTES residents in speaking out on their own behalf for the changes they would like to see in their neighbourhood. The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is located on the occupied, unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Gallery Gachet is a unique artist-run centre located in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver, the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy’əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Gallery Gachet is a collectively-run exhibition and studio space built to empower participants as artists, administrators and curators. Through artistic means, we aim to demystify and challenge issues related to mental health and social marginalization in order to educate the public and promote social and economic justice. 

Fiona York
CCAP Coordinator and Administrator | 604-665-2105 | Carnegie Community Centre, 401 Main Street, Vancouver, BC V6A 2T7 Unceded Coast Salish Territories

The Carnegie Community Action Project is a project of the board of the Carnegie Community Centre Association. CCAP works mostly on housing, income, and land use issues in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver so that the area can remain a low income friendly community. —