uOttawa bestows Hon Doc to trailblazing psychologist for work tackling homelessness

Faculty of Social Sciences
Profile of Dr. Sam Tsemberis
Canadian-born Dr. Sam Tsemberis is credited with ‘Housing First’ global model, which takes aim at homelessness for those with mental health/addiction problems

The University of Ottawa has honored a trailblazing psychologist credited with revolutionizing communities’ response to homelessness with the bestowment of an Honorary Doctorate.

University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont conferred Dr. Sam Tsemberis, Ph.D., with the honorary degree in a ceremony at the Faculty of Social Sciences on Monday.

Dr. Tsemberis, a clinical and community psychiatrist, developed the “Housing First” model, an evidence-based program that aims to end chronic homelessness for individuals with mental illness and addictions. Housing First programs have been successfully implemented across Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition from the University of Ottawa and hope that this may serve to amplify the message that we have the knowledge and only need the political will to end homelessness for people with psychiatric disabilities in Canada,” said Dr. Tsemberis, a Montreal native who is CEO of the Pathways Housing First Institute and a faculty member at UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Tsemberis’ outreach with the homeless population in the United States, where hundreds of personal contacts led to the creation of the “Housing First” model. Dr. Tsemberis has integrated research into his efforts, published extensively in scientific journals, and demonstrated that, for those with mental health problems, control of a space they can call their own is fundamental to their recovery.

Profile of Sam Tsemberis

“I hope that this may serve to amplify the message that we have the knowledge and only need the political will to end homelessness for people with psychiatric disabilities in Canada.”

Dr. Sam Tsemberis

— Clinical and community psychiatrist, CEO of the Pathways Housing First Institute

The Canadian At Home / Chez Soi study showed through rigorous research conducted in five cities the Pathways model of Housing First developed by Dr. Sam Tsemberis can end chronic homelessness for most people,” said Tim Aubry, a Full Professor at uOttawa’s School of Psychology and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services.

Currently, over 2,000 people – including youth, single adults, and families – stay in temporary emergency accommodations in Ottawa every night because of their homelessness. The latest data has revealed over Canadian 32,000 individuals are homeless, with more people considered as chronically homelessness today compared to before the pandemic.

"As one of the largest providers of Housing First in Canada, it is our honour at CMHA Ottawa to celebrate our 70th anniversary by co-presenting this special convocation for its visionary innovator," said Dr. Susan Farrell, Executive Director, CMHA Ottawa. "Additionally, as Ottawa faces a housing and homelessness emergency, we thank uOttawa for this timely opportunity to highlight the most effective and extensively researched approach to ending chronic homelessness for most individuals."

Dr. Tsemberis is also the Executive Director of the UCLA-VA Center of Excellence for Training and Research on Veterans Homelessness and Recovery and has been awarded the Meritorious Service Cross from the Government of Canada

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