PIEs, 'scattered site' and 'networked' housing

Exploring the benefits of community

For this discussion, we will adopt the terminology developed for Housing First in the US, which refers to two principal HF options as 'scattered site' (for isolated tenancies) and 'single site', or 'congregated site' housing.

But there is a third option, which we will call 'networked housing'. By 'networked' housing, we mean semi-dispersed housing units with a deliberate attempt to create, offer and sustain a common social support network.

These models may also be  described as Keyring, Clubhouse or ‘core and cluster’ models. (Clubhouse and ‘core and cluster’ models will typically have a particular building as the centre of the network; 'Keyring' models, like 'circles of support', typically will not.)


Group support in sustaining recovery

Those re-housed after homelessness, or after some form of institutional care, may find themselves either entirely on their own or living with, or nearby, individuals who have had similar life experiences.

There appears to be some concern that some individuals struggle to establish themselves in solitary housing. Isolation may be experienced as painful, added to the past problems and vulnerability, and the intimidating novelty of being responsible for bills and relations to neighbours etc. Isolated users are also vulnerable to exploitation. There is anecdotal evidence of 'cuckooing' - others taking advantage of a vulnerable individual's home to conduct a variety of nefarious activities.

More intensive individual professional support may then be needed, where peer and community support might have been as effective or more, and at considerably lower cost.

In therapeutic communities, it is the strength in peer support  to tackle a common problem in a group and community setting that is the basis for participation. In 'recovery housing', the bond of a shared past problem may similarly be helpful in maintaining improvement.  But it may just as well be the wish to move on from some past problem that may unite people in recovery, even where the problems may differ.


Who needs it?

There seems to be no real clarity as yet over who does best in scattered site housing, and who benefits from a more shared living. At least, there is so far little research on the issue. This is probably because the defining principles of Housing First - which have defined the evidence base so far - do not take any position in this issue.

Yet with younger people, and in the military, shared living is the norm, and using the benefits of shared living for recovery may seem more natural. For women - and others - escaping domestic violence, the validation of finding you are not alone may be particularly powerful.  It may be that scattered site housing is more suited to those who wish to move on, and who do NOT want to be reminded of where they have been.


Camps as campuses

By contrast it appears that the potential for community amongst street- dwelling homeless people can be remarkably strong. There are accounts for example of street drinkers who, though housed, return to drink on the streets with their buddies, for companionship.

Deliberate attempts to create communities in homelessness camps - often in the face of opposition from neighbours and local authorities - have a chequered history, and are often too short-lived to be formally researched. Such observations are anecdotal; but this is primarily a problem in the limitations for formal research, which does not answer these questions.

Nevertheless a community work approach can be effective; and deliberate attempts to house former homeless people in communities in permanent supported housing should offer opportunities for research on what is most effective for whom.


'Recovery Housing' in the US and the UK (page) HERE

The characteristics of successful supported housing programmes HERE

Shared housing and long term mental illness HERE

Mirror neurons and the Clubhouse model HERE

Risk and loss in disrupting street community social networks HERE

PIEs, Housing First and the New Social Psychiatry, Part One: Packed with questions HERE

PIEs, Housing First and the New Social Psychiatry, Part Three: They do things differently there HERE

Public health and social housing : an natural alliance? :  HERE


A Home of Your Own: Housing First in Finland HERE

Single site housing first for chronically homeless people HERE

A Home of Your Own: Housing First in Finland HERE

Brendan Plante on outreach and community HERE

Community organisation in tent cities in the US HERE

Camp Take notice HERE

A discussion with veterans village CEO HERE

A living room in a library helps people through their darkest times HERE

The Y-Adapt framework (YPeople's Clubhouse model) HERE

Queens Gardens HERE

Yet to come: 

Street drinking and still belonging (podcast)

On drop out rates podcast

Joanne on preparing for independent living

Leonie Boland on OT, imagery and making a home.

Therapeutic communities and "Belongingness"

Psychiatrists' Policy statement on Recovery