Reclaiming support : shifting services to reflect tenant meanings of support in supported housing




Hope, Melanie Lora

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While health authorities have administered licensed residential care facilities for years, in the last two decades, health authorities have increasingly contracted with nonprofit organizations to house persons diagnosed with mental illness in the community in "supported" projects. Services may include medical and/or social supports such as medication, addiction services, case-management and life skills training. While flexible supports customized to meet the needs of service users may sound encouraging, numerous questions remain. This thesis generates a basis from which to explore how services might shift to better meet the needs of tenants. To do so, I examine meanings of support from a tenant perspective and consider the environment in which tenants experience support in supported housing. The analysis involves semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with two female and four male tenants who had been previously homeless, currently living in one supported housing project in a mid-sized city in British Columbia, Canada. The study draws on love ethic and neoliberal theory in an effort to frame mental health service user understandings and mainstream models of support. The tensions between support services employing principles of love ethic theory and mainstream models raise the question of whether the two models can co-exist, and if so, how and where compromises are made and at whose expense. These tensions are evident in the data and in turn are taken up within the analysis. Tenant meanings of support include relationships and resources that increase safety, security and independence, understood as the freedom to identify your own goals and maintain control over the support you receive. The findings point to a vital need to ensure tenants are included in decision-making with regard to support practices and policies. Utilizing tenant knowledge would go a long way toward addressing many of the concerns and dilemmas which surface in the research.



supported housing, mental illness, British Columbia, residential care