If you are in distress, you can text WELLNESS to 741741 at any time. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

Home › Resources › COVID-19, Mental Wellness, and the Homelessness Workforce – Policy Brief

COVID-19, Mental Wellness, and the Homelessness Workforce – Policy Brief

This brief analyzes the impacts and policy considerations of the pandemic for people providing services to individuals who experience homelessness or precarious housing. It is intended for policy makers and organizations working across the mental health, substance use, and homelessness sectors — since throughout the pandemic success across various sets of systems (including housing, mental health, and substance use) relies on coordination. We are all living in and being supported by the same sets of systems, where the faltering of one sector harms us all.

The brief also provides the preliminary findings from an ongoing national mixed-methods study conducted by CAMH researchers Nick Kerman and Sean Kidd. The study recruited service providers for people experiencing homelessness in three community settings: (1) homeless services, (2) supportive housing, and (3) harm reduction services. Data were collected beginning in November 2020, using an online survey of 427 direct service providers. This phase was followed by qualitative interviews with direct service providers and service directors.

COVID-19 has had an overwhelming impact on people who experience homelessness and precarious housing. It has brought to light and exacerbated existing gaps in housing policy and long-standing underfunding across the sector, which have in turn led to higher rates in both areas. While innovations spurred by the pandemic’s public health response and the need for physical isolation have created some additional capacity through the use of hotels and the repurposing of shelters, these emergency measures are not keeping pace with the increased demand. For shelters and community organizations providing essential services, COVID-19 has strained their ability to meet this demand while maintaining public health guidelines.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Build on the prioritization of homelessness during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to address funding, resources, and policy gaps at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels.
  2. Prioritize workers for personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccine distribution, and other resources as the pandemic continues.
  3. Extend improvements made during COVID-19 to pay and benefits, including hazard pay and sick leave, as part of broader efforts to change the culture of invisibility for workers who are part of Canada’s care economy.
  4. Increase workers’ access to mental health and substance use services and supports, including employment-based benefits, during and following the pandemic.
  5. Build capacity for the homelessness workforce to respond to the mental wellness needs of self and others through ongoing training and supervision.
  6. Strengthen support networks within and across organizations working to address homelessness, including through community support, support from managers, and peer support from co-workers and people with lived or living experience.

In a hurry? Check out the highlights from this policy brief.

Feedback Form

Hey, there! Thanks for checking out this resource. We’d love it if you could share a little more info about yourself and how you got here (What kind of information were you looking for? Did this resource help?). Doing so will help us create better content in the future. Thanks!


  • The completion of the form is voluntary.
  • The information collected will be used solely and exclusively by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to improve the quality of our documents.
Are you willing to be contacted within 3 to 6 months for a short follow-up survey?
In case of “Yes” – please provide an email address


Your feedback will only be used for feedback purposes. Thank-you for participating in our feedback program.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Founded in 1983 in Canada, nabs is a unique charity specifically designed to support the health and well-being of all individuals in the media, marketing, and communications industry in Canada.
From anxiety and depression to pandemic-related stress, COVID-19 has intensified the mental health needs of people across Canada. While research and policy typically focus on promoting timely and equitable access...
Mental health problems in Canada are both common and costly (and have only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic). Yet the lack of mental health resources means that many workers’ needs...