The Lived Experience Circle (LEC) was formed in 2010 as an advisory group to the Winnipeg site of the At Home/Chez Soi study. At Home/Chez Soi is a study on homelessness and mental illness, and is the largest of its kind ever undertaken world-wide. In 2009 the Federal government allocated $110 million to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), to conduct this fiveyear study on mentally ill homeless persons in five cities in Canada: Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
The At Home/Chez Soi project is designed to test the Housing First model of service delivery. Housing First stands in contrast to the Continuum of Care model, where people had to display “housing readiness”, such as sobriety and adherence to medication regimes, before they received housing. The At Home project provides housing first, along with services, based on the understanding that it is difficult if not impossible to stabilize one’s conditions without access to a home. This model has been found in the past, as it was in the At Home/Chez Soi study, to be superior to the Continuum of Care model with regards to housing retention rates, and the well-being of participants.
The LEC is comprised of a group of volunteers drawn from participants of the At Home/Chez Soi study which meets monthly at the University of Winnipeg’s Wii Chiwaakanak Center, a training and skill development center located at 511 Ellice Ave., Winnipeg. The Circle has benefitted greatly from the support of the staff and director, and for the use of this facility.
The committee was initially funded by the MHCC, and subsequently administered by the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies. This funding includes honorariums, bus tickets, lunches, and the cost of the events put on by the committee. We are grateful to both of these organizations. Without their support the LEC would not exist. Throughout the study the MHCC and its research arm have stressed the invaluable knowledge and the unique perspective of people with lived experience of homelessness and mental illness.