A $110-million research project that takes homeless people with mental illness off the streets in five cities and provides them with a safe place to live was officially launched today.

It’s the first such effort by the new Mental Health Commission of Canada.

The pilot study, called the At Home/Chez Soi project, involves 2,285 people who are homeless and living with a mental illness in five cities — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton.

Altogether, 1,325 people will be given a place to live and social services over the course of the five-year study, while the others will receive services that are currently available. One of the goals is to find out more about what works well in providing services to homeless people.

Dr. Jayne Barker, director of the project, said each city will have a particular focus. People who have a recurring substance abuse problem will be the target in Vancouver.

“We need to really improve our ability to intervene successfully with that population, and to be honest, we don’t do that well,” Barker said.

By the numbers
• There are an estimated 300,000 homeless people in Canada, statistics show.