A private community housing provider noticed a spike in premature deaths in one of their buildings. So they decided to do something about it

From the Toronto Star piece:

…Parvin Merchant, a director of support services for Houselink and Mainstay, also became concerned about the seemingly premature deaths of residents and added up the names.

The results prompted her to reach out recently to a contact at St. Michael’s Hospital. She wanted someone to explore the circumstances of the formerly homeless who are dying unexpectedly in supportive housing across the city.

Are there strategies that can be used to reduce the death toll, she wondered.

Dr. Stephen Hwang, a research scientist, and James Lachaud, a research fellow and whose expertise includes urban housing and vulnerable populations, liked Merchant’s idea.

In fact the two were so impressed they’ve decided to apply for a $75,000 federal research grant to study premature aging and premature mortality among people living in supportive housing across the city.

…Lachaud submitted the grant application and Hwang is a co-applicant. They are still awaiting word on whether they’ll win the grant.

Lachaud says he believes the number of deaths from people who are alone is troubling.

Once housing is found for homeless people, social isolation and loneliness can become a major concern and an important risk factor for common mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance use and suicidal thoughts, Lachaud says.

“Inadequately treated physical and mental health conditions can lead to premature and avoidable deaths. Unfortunately, formerly homeless, single older adults living in supportive housing have been dying alone (in their homes) for years, and this phenomenon has been largely ignored,” Lachaud went on to say.

The experts from St. Michael’s Hospital, Merchant, Mainstay and Houselink and other non-profits who support the homeless, mentally ill and substance users will be taking part in the study if it goes forward, including sharing data.

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