A 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, 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 — Toronto, Moncton, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

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, says the federal government has provided funding of $110 million for five years, but transition plans will be worked on so that at the end of the five-year study period, “nobody gets put back out on the street.”

Barker said the At Home project is using a “housing first” approach that’s been successfully tried in New York City.

There are an estimated 300,000 homeless people in Canada, statistics show.