Harm Reduction and Housing Research
At the Victoria Cool Aid Society we believe strongly in the effectiveness of housing first, which means that we are better able to help people overcome the issues that caused them to experience homelessness once they have a safe, supportive home to live in.
Harm reduction is an essential part of housing first. Harm reduction means keeping people safe and acting to reduce the harmful impacts of substance use, including death, disease, injury, and trauma. For example, relapses are a common aspect of addiction recovery. With the harm reduction approach, residents are provided with counseling and support to overcome cravings and, if necessary, avoid harmful behaviours during a relapse by using clean, safe medical equipment, by being in a safe place where emergency help is readily available, and biomedical waste can be sanitarily disposed of. Victoria Cool Aid Society supportive housing buildings commonly offer clean medical supplies and safe disposal containers, as well as 24/7 counseling and support.
The housing first approach and harm reduction can seem counter-intuitive to those who are unfamiliar with the experience of addictions and homelessness.
When learning about this approach for the first time it is helpful to remember that not just at Cool Aid, but throughout Canada and internationally, there is a well-established body of evidence from both service providers and experts that housing first is the best practice in helping people overcome homelessness, especially when homelessness and addictions overlap.
Below are links to information and research on how housing first works and what it is, from local to international:
- Report on Pacifica Housing’s Streets to Homes Project
- Analysis of Cool Aid Services as a model for Canada
- Vancouver Outcomes of Federal Government Study on Housing First
Below are links to information and research specifically about harm reduction, a vital component of the housing first model.
- University of Victoria Harm Reduction Framework for Victoria
- BC Ministry of Health Community Guide to Harm Reduction
- National Study Comparing Harm Reduction and Housing First with Other Models
- CAMH Background and Position on Harm Reduction
- Canada Research Chair Guide to Harm Reduction for Special Populations
- United States Research on Effectiveness and Cost-effectiveness of Harm Reduction
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Guide to Harm Reduction