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Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People

Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People

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Published by Vaishnavi Jayakumar
Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People: An Anthropological Perspective

Abstract

Often lacking in scholarly and policy-oriented discussions of homelessness are contextualized understandings of the problems faced, and the values held, by homeless mentally ill people. This article, using an anthropological perspective, examines issues that arise for homeless mentally ill individuals in making the transition from shelter living to permanent residences. The transition occurs as part of a housing initiative driven by the philosophy of consumer empowerment. Project participants are placed in independent apartments or evolving consumer households (ECH) — shared, staffed residences designed to transform themselves into consumer-directed living situations over time. The effects of an empowerment paradigm on the organization of space, the nature of social relations, and the management of economic resources in the ECHs are discussed to show that consumers and staff sometimes have contrasting views of what empowerment entails. It is suggested that anthropological research can help to illuminate the issues at stake in determining policy for homeless people with major mental illness.

Recommended Citation
Ware, Norma C.; Desjarlais, Robert R.; AvRuskin, Tara L.; Breslau, Joshua; Good, Byron J.; and Goldfinger, Stephen M. (1992)
"Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People: An Anthropological Perspective," New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 26.

Available at: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol8/iss1/26
Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People: An Anthropological Perspective

Abstract

Often lacking in scholarly and policy-oriented discussions of homelessness are contextualized understandings of the problems faced, and the values held, by homeless mentally ill people. This article, using an anthropological perspective, examines issues that arise for homeless mentally ill individuals in making the transition from shelter living to permanent residences. The transition occurs as part of a housing initiative driven by the philosophy of consumer empowerment. Project participants are placed in independent apartments or evolving consumer households (ECH) — shared, staffed residences designed to transform themselves into consumer-directed living situations over time. The effects of an empowerment paradigm on the organization of space, the nature of social relations, and the management of economic resources in the ECHs are discussed to show that consumers and staff sometimes have contrasting views of what empowerment entails. It is suggested that anthropological research can help to illuminate the issues at stake in determining policy for homeless people with major mental illness.

Recommended Citation
Ware, Norma C.; Desjarlais, Robert R.; AvRuskin, Tara L.; Breslau, Joshua; Good, Byron J.; and Goldfinger, Stephen M. (1992)
"Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People: An Anthropological Perspective," New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 26.

Available at: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol8/iss1/26

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Published by: Vaishnavi Jayakumar on Dec 18, 2013
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 Article 263-23-1992
Empowerment and the Transition to Housing forHomeless Mentally Ill People: An AnthropologicalPerspective
Norma C. Ware
Harvard University
Robert R. Desjarlais
Harvard University
Tara L. AvRuskin
Harvard University
 Joshua Breslau
Harvard University
Byron J. Good
Harvard University
See next page for additional authors
Follow this and additional works at:hp://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejppPart of thePublic Policy Commons , and theSocial Policy Commons
is Article is brought to you for free and open access by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. It has been accepted for inclusion in New England Journal of Public Policy by an authorized administrator of ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. For more information, please contactlibrary.uasc@umb.edu.
Recommended Citation
 Ware, Norma C.; Desjarlais, Robert R.; AvRuskin, Tara L.; Breslau, Joshua; Good, Byron J.; and Goldnger, Stephen M. (1992)"Empowerment and the Transition to Housing for Homeless Mentally Ill People: An Anthropological Perspective,"
 New England  Journal of Public Policy
: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 26. Available at:hp://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol8/iss1/26
 
 Authors
Norma C. Ware, Robert R. Desjarlais, Tara L. AvRuskin, Joshua Breslau, Byron J. Good, and Stephen M.Goldnger
is article is available in New England Journal of Public Policy:hp://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol8/iss1/26
 
Empowerment
Anand
the
Transition
Anthropological
to
Housing
for
Perspective
Homeless
Mentally
III
People
Norma
C.
Ware,
Ph.D.
Robert
R.
Desjarlais,
Ph.D.
Tara
L.
AvRuskin
Joshua
Breslau
Byron
J.
Good,
Ph.D.
Stephen
M.
Goldfinger,
M.D.
Often
lacking
in
scholarly
and
policy
-oriented
discussions
of
homelessness
are
con-
textualized
understandings
of
the
problems
faced,
and
the
values
held,
by
homeless
mentally
ill
people.
This
article,
using
an
anthropological
perspective,
examines
issues
that
arise
for
homeless
mentally
ill
individuals
in
making
the
transition
from
shelter
living
to
permanent
residences.
The
transition
occurs
as
part
of
a
housing
initiative
driven
by
the
philosophy
of
consumer
empowerment.
Projectparticipants
are
placed
in
independentapartments
or
evolving
consumer
households
(ECH)
shared,
staffed
residences
designed
to
transform
themselves
into
consumer-directed
living
sit-
uations
over
time.
The
effects
of
an
empowerment
paradigmon
the
organization
of
space,
the
nature
of
social
relations,
and
the
management
of
economic
resources
in
the
ECHs
are
discussed
to
show
that
consumers
and
staff
sometimeshave
contrast-
ing
views
of
what
empowerment
entails.It
is
suggested
that
anthropological
research
can
help
to
illuminatethe
issues
at
stake
in
determining
policy
for
homeless
people
with
major
mental
illness.
The
problem
of
homelessness,
particularly
of
individuals
who
are
both
homeless
and
mentally
ill,
continues
to
grow.
Throughout
thecountry,
localities
are
struggling
tofind
effective,
and
cost-effective,
means
of
coping
with
the
mental
health
and
housing
needs
of
this
vulnerable
population.
Although
a
substantial
body
Norma
Ware
is
a
medical
anthropologist
and
instructor
in
social
medicine,
Department
of
Social
Medicine,
Harvard
Medical
School.
Robert
Desjarlais
is
an
anthropologist
and
an
NIMH
postdoctoral
research
fellow
in
the
Department
of
Social
Medicine,
Harvard
Medical
School.
Tara
AvRuskin
and
Joshua
Breslau
are
graduate
students
in
the
Program
in
Social
Anthropology,
Department
of
Anthropology,
Harvard
University.
Byron
Good
is
associate
professor
of
medical
anthropology,
Department
of
Social
Medicine,
Harvard
Medi-
cal
School,
and
lecturer
on
anthropology,
Department
of
Anthropology,
Harvard
University.
Stephen
M.
Goldfinger
is
associate
professor
of
psychiatry,
Department
of
Psychiatry,
Harvard
Medical
School,
and
acting
clinical
director,
Massachusetts
Mental
Health
Center.
297

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