Organizations team up to tackle homelessness in New West and Vancouver

A new program is providing community-focused mental health services to people who are experiencing homelessness.

Lookout Housing and Health Society and Adler University have teamed up on new mental health services that aims to help people experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty to achieve increased stability in their lives. Adler University graduate students will provide mental health services such as individual and group therapy, psychological assessments, mental health screenings, and educational programming at three Lookout locations, including Russell Housing Centre in New Westminster.

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“Many of our guests experience mental health challenges and need customized services to meet their various needs,” said Shayne Williams, Lookout’s chief executive officer. “Traditional mental health services, such as weekly therapy appointments, are difficult for guests to access when struggling with housing instability, poverty and stigma. This is why we are excited to work with Adler University to help design mental health services to meet guests’ specific needs.”

Adler University is an independent nonprofit institution that offers graduate degree programs in psychology, counselling, and public policy. As part of this program, five Adler University students from the doctor of psychology in clinical psychology and master of counselling psychology programs will be providing therapy, assessment and screenings for guests, as well as staff development and trauma-resiliency training to Lookout employees.

Adler University and Lookout have worked together to create a community-focused model of mental health services that aims to help guests gain housing stability, to provide access to longer term therapy services and to help substance users to better manage their addictions.

“In contrast to many clinical training programs, where mental health services are offered on a university campus, we offer services directly in the communities where underserved populations live,” Bradley O’Hara, executive dean of Adler University’s Vancouver campus, said in a news release. “By working within communities, our students gain valuable insight into the surrounding social conditions that affect mental health so they can better serve guests.”

New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy, who is the B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions, spoke at the Oct. 25 event celebrating the launch of the partnership between Lookout and Adler University. The services align with the province’s plan for improving mental health and addictions care in British Columbia.

“Because of the innovative partnership between Lookout and Adler University, graduate students will provide much-needed mental health services to the most vulnerable people in our community, where and when they need it,” she said. “By combining their expertise, one as a community organization and the other as an academic institution, they’ve created a new opportunity to help people on their pathway to healing and hope.”

According to a press release, the services are adapted to meet the needs of guests at each location. For example, guests with stable housing at the Russell Housing Centre are offered longer term therapy services, while services at Lookout’s Powell Street Getaway in the Downtown Eastside will focus on crisis intervention.

“People experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty often live with mental health challenges that remain unaddressed,” said a press release from Lookout and Adler University. “For example, of the 205 people who stayed at Lookout’s Russell Housing Centre last year, 62 per cent lived with self-reported substance use and 32 per cent with self-reported mental health issues, and many people experience both challenges simultaneously.”



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