12/26/2011 03:15 EST | Updated 02/25/2012 05:12 EST

Some facts about the federally-funded pilot program At Home/Chez Soi

OTTAWA - The At Home/Chez Soi pilot project was started in 2008 with $110 million in five-year funding, through the Mental Health Commission. Here is how it works:

What: Traditional help for the homeless aims to resolve their underlying issues first. At Home/Chez Soi provides a home first.

Where: Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver.

Who: Mentally ill homeless people, with emphasis on rural migrants in Moncton, visible minorities in Toronto, aboriginals in Winnipeg and people with addictions in Vancouver.

How: Clients are divided into two groups, one group acting as a control, receiving treatment as usual. The housing-first group gets choice of housing, usually an apartment or a residence. Usually, it's market housing, not social housing.

Subsidies: Participants pay about 30 per cent of the rent, the rest is covered by the program.

Treatment: Participants choose what kind of treatment they want, and how it will be delivered. Professionals visit at least once a week, to help with physical and mental health as well as life skills.

Why: Researchers hope the massive pilot project will prove housing-first is cost-efficient and can be carefully tailored to suit the needs of the most vulnerable populations in Canada.