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Keywords:

  • homelessness;
  • serious mental illness;
  • mixed methods

Objectives

This study examined whether and how permanent supportive housing (PSH) programs are able to support aging in place among tenants with serious mental illness.

Design

Investigators used a mixed-method approach known as a convergent parallel design in which quantitative and qualitative data are analyzed separately and findings are merged during interpretation. Quantitative analysis compared 1-year pre-residential and post-residential outcomes for PSH program enrollees, comparing adults aged 35–49 years (n = 3990) with those aged 50 years or older (n = 3086). Case study analysis using qualitative interviews with staff of a PSH program that exclusively served older adults identified challenges to providing support services.

Results

Substantial declines in days spent homeless and in justice system settings were found, along with increases in days living independently in apartments and in congregate settings. Homelessness and justice system involvement declined less for older adults than younger adults. Qualitative themes related to working with older adults included increased attention to medical vulnerability, residual effects of institutional care, and perceived preference for congregate living.

Conclusions

PSH is an effective way to end homelessness, yet little is known about how programs can support housing stability among aging populations. Additional support and training for PSH staff will better promote successful aging in place. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.