An Account Of Housing Support For People With Mental Illness

view of Trondheim Norway
Trondheim Norway in 2019, where an unusual housing project was underway.

Imagine that you are a mental health worker in Trondheim, Norway (population 210,000). With your mental health colleagues, you began a pilot project in 2018. You asked 34 residents who were living in three group homes whether they would like to move. Each the residents has a diagnosis of severe and persistent mental illness.

You might be forgiven for slapping your hand to your forehead. “What, destablize people with severe mental illness? Surely you’re wasting our time!”

In the first year, you forecast that five residents would make a transition from the group home to independent living in their own home. Surprisingly, it turned out that you are wrong: altogether 12 residents moved. Five years later, the 12 continue to live on their own. Since the pilot began, the team has supported 190 people with similar health diagnoses to set up home and live independently in the community.

Part of your work has shifted from supporting people to move to supporting people in their new homes. The outreach team that supports the people who are living on their own operates 9 to 5 on weekdays. In a survey of the residents, some say they feel more supported now than when they were in the group home where staff were on site 24/7.

Conventional thinking would almost certainly find these results completely astonishing.

To hear more about the work to support community living for people with mental illness in Trondheim as well as the work of three other fascinating speakers from Vancouver, Los Angeles and the Republic of Ireland, try this webinar, which is posted at the homelesslearninghub: Comparing Models of Permanent Housing