Closed quarters: Challenges and opportunities in stabilizing housing and mental health across the justice sector

Closed Quarters

Challenges and Opportunities in Stabilizing Housing and Mental Health Across the Justice Sector

For decades, people with no fixed address have entered and left correctional facilities, yet there have been limited housing solutions available to them. The complex factors leading to criminal justice involvement, the multiple entry and exit points, the high prevalence of mental health and addictions problems, and the complexity of agencies and ministries involved — these challenges have resulted in a patchwork of responses. There is an over-reliance on emergency services, such as shelters and hospitals; on precarious housing, such as couch surfing; and on the few supports within the corrections system to respond to these needs.

What’s more, policy-making on these issues has too often lacked an understanding of the way the criminal justice system fosters housing insecurity and contributes to homelessness, and the extent to which mental health and addictions problems are implicated in this.

Closed Quarters, a report by the Housing, Health, and Justice Community of Interest (COI), spells out the issues faced by people whose needs are at the intersection of housing, mental health, and justice system involvement, and also makes related recommendations.


The purpose of the report is three-fold:
  1. To provide an overview of the intersections between the housing, mental health and criminal justice systems. This provides a “justiceinformed” framework to guide the development of housing solutions for people who have mental health and addictions problems and are also justice involved.
  2. To articulate the findings and priorities identified by COI members and other attendees of a Think Tank Day on the subject.
  3. To provide the Government of Ontario and decision-makers with recommendations on how to best meet the housing needs of people with mental health and addictions problems who are justice involved.


To download a copy of the report, click here

About the Housing Health and Justice COI

In 2015, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario formed the Housing Health and Justice Community of Interest (COI) in partnership with the John Howard Society of Ontario, the Wellesley Institute, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) with support from Evidence Exchange Network. These organizations made up the core working group of the COI. The COI provides an opportunity for knowledge exchange among people working in the housing, health and justice systems, and with people who have lived experience of mental health and/or addictions problems, to improve the housing outcomes of those who have mental health and addictions problems and are justice involved. The “justice-informed” lens is often missing from many housing related initiatives and funding opportunities. The COI’s work seeks to ensure that the needs of this population are kept in view as the government moves forward on affordable and supportive housing initiatives.