Materialities in supported housing for people with mental health problems: a blurry picture of the tenants [2020]

Our daily lives and sense of self are partly formed by material surroundings that are often taken for granted. This materiality is also important for people with mental health problems living in supported housing with surroundings consisting of different healthcare services, neighbourhoods, buildings or furniture. In this study, we explored how understandings of tenants are expressed in the materialities of supported housing. We conducted ethnographic fieldwork in seven different supported accommodations in Norway and analysed the resultant field notes, interviews, photographs and documents using Situational Analysis. The analysis showed that supported housing materialities expressed a blurry picture comprising widening and narrowing understandings of tenants, both by others and by themselves. Widening understandings concerned how tenants were living their lives in their own ways in private rooms while maintaining a social life in common areas. Narrowing understandings pertained to understand the tenants based solely on their diagnosis and need for care and control in hospital‐like buildings. The following discussion focusses on the ideas that underlie narrowing materialities and on the importance of striving for atmospheres that entail a sense of belonging.

Jan G. Friesinger, Alain Topor, Tore Dag Bøe, Inger Beate Larsen
Sociology of Health & Illness, 25 July 2020