Over the years, changing perspectives on addiction and homelessness have influenced treatment and prevention, with people with lived-experience informing and often leading the work. The Jean Tweed Treatment Centre is a community agency dealing with substance abuse, mental health and problem gambling. It operates Palmerston House, a transitional housing residence, and offers supportive services to women, some with infants, battling addiction. To support women at every step of their healing journey, the Jean Tweed Centre has partnered with Street Haven at the Crossroads, an organization housing and offering supportive services to women at risk of homelessness.
Aided by a $45,000 grant from the Centre, the Women’s Supportive Housing Engagement Project is a grassroots research and tenant-engagement initiative aspiring to redefine the current housing model and programming for women struggling with dependency issues. Several of the 66 women living in Jean Tweed and Street Haven facilities will learn skills to research, influence, and design programs and share findings in an opportunity to influence housing decisions that affect them. The goal is to prioritize a recovery-based approach, since the current abstinence-based model, where complete avoidance is required, is seen by some as punitive or outdated. Instead of a rigid structure, there will be a focus on empowering women to take charge of their rehabilitation process. Grassroot researchers with lived-experience of homelessness will work closely with current residents to conduct a needs-assessment and program review of the Palmerston House and Street Haven housing models. They will identify and recommend best practices in housing marginalized women who use drugs or alcohol, including women with children. The Centre recognizes the joint venture’s transformational nature and potential to be shared within the community housing sector.