First Advisor

Greg Townley

Date of Publication

Summer 7-13-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






People with mental disabilities -- Housing, Neighbors -- Attitudes



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 172 pages)


Purpose: Historically, communities have opposed the development of residential programs for adults with psychiatric disabilities. In the last two decades, national and local campaigns have made targeted efforts to improve public knowledge about mental illness, and attitudes and behaviors towards mental health clients. Supportive housing policies have also been revised to better facilitate integration and independence for clients with psychiatric disabilities. Despite these changes, the number of studies on perceptions of psychiatric supportive housing has dramatically declined in recent years. Little is known about how neighbors currently perceive psychiatric housing and neighbors with mental illness, or the role that mental health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors play in neighborhoods where housing clients live.

Methods: Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of 139 neighbors living in close proximity to psychiatric supportive housing sites were assessed. Follow up qualitative interviews were conducted with 16 neighbors who correctly identified the housing site in their neighborhood to understand the perceived impact of the housing site and elicit suggestions for improving relations between clients and their neighbors. Individual and neighborhood social experiences of neighbors are compared with those of 68 clients living in the referent housing sites.

Results: Neighbors had high rates of personal experience with mental illness and were familiar with mental health diagnoses and facts. Neighbors had positive opinions about and neighboring intentions towards neighbors with mental illness. Increased mental health knowledge and close relationships with individuals with mental illness were associated with decreased stigma. Being able to correctly identify the housing and population was not associated with differences in opinions about individuals with mental illness. Compared to clients, neighbors perceived the neighborhood as being less safe. Clients were lonelier than their neighbors. Neighbors reported the housing had a positive impact on the neighborhood and had few concerns. They suggested awareness, education, and social contact strategies to improve relations with housing clients.

Conclusions: Suggestions for improving client integration and public acceptance of psychiatric supportive housing are discussed, as well implications in light of recent policy changes and ongoing public anti-stigma campaigns.


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