The policy began in the 1960s with the closure of psychiatric hospital beds — it was to be the first part of a plan to move people into the community. Over the next 20 years, more than 80 percent of the beds across Canada were closed, along with entire psychiatric hospitals.
The problem, however, was that the second phase of the plan — community supports and housing for those patients — never materialized. Thousands were moved out of hospitals. Many ended up on the streets.
This dismantling of our mental health system played a key role in creating today’s crisis that sees more than 235,000 people living on our streets annually. Meanwhile, a high number of homeless people — 70 percent — have mental health problems.
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