Monday, February 28, 2011

Study: Tenants who did crime can do time successfully in supportive housing

The National Housing Law Project has posted a report in the journal Psychiatric Services that's cheering at one level, though possibly not others. Published in 2009, it says a study of "homeless adults with behavioral health disorders" in Seattle found that members of the study group who had criminal records weren't any less likely than others to hang on for two years as successful inmates of supportive housing programs. (People with histories of drug and property crimes had more trouble than others, but not people with histories of crime in general.)

Knowing a bit about life in supportive housing, I'd wonder, on the other hand, how performance in these sometimes very institutional buildings would correlate with tenants' disciplinary records behind any doors that might have been locked on them in the past.

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By the way, does anyone else find this term "behavioral health disorders" a little creepy? In a way it goes beyond saying a person has an attitude problem, or a neurosis, or a personality disorder. It suggests that a person's decisions in life have been objectively wrong and are to be dealt with as medical illnesses -- rather than, for example, politically, or socially, or economically. Only a short step from there to these proposals for forcible medication of homeless people under conservatorships imposed for the purpose. It's part of what SF State sociology professor Bev Ovrebo was predicting in the early '90s, that the problem of homelessness would become medicalized.

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