Abstract: Group Homes and Apartments: NIMBY and Neighbor Relations (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12328 Group Homes and Apartments: NIMBY and Neighbor Relations

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 4:30 PM
Seacliff A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Allison Zippay, PhD , Rutgers University, Associate Professor, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: Community and social integration are primary goals of community-based group homes and apartments for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Yet up to 50 percent of such residences experience initial opposition from neighbors. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such opposition diminishes over time, but we do not know if the lessening of overt hostility translates into acceptance and support, or if the neighborhood outreach sponsored by some mental health agencies plays a role in facilitating positive long-term neighborhood relations. This paper draws on interviews with mental health administrators, residential staff, and neighbors to examine neighbors' current perceptions of psychiatric residences, and associations among current perceptions, initial opposition, and agency-sponsored engagement with neighbors.

Methods: Data were collected through interviews with three groups of respondents: 169 administrators of supervised psychiatric group homes or apartments; 138 on-site supervisors; and 1,425 neighbors of a sample of those residences. The sampling frame consisted of lists obtained from State Departments of Mental Health in seven study states (Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas) of all public and private organizations receiving state funds to provide group housing to individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Interviews were conducted with administrators who were responsible for establishing housing at the listed agencies. They described their most recently established group residence and answered questions regarding community outreach strategies, and initial opposition from neighbors. Supervisors from these sites were interviewed regarding site residents' interactions with neighbors, and current neighbor attitudes toward the residence. Neighbors of a sample of these residences were interviewed regarding their perceptions of the residences' effects on neighborhood quality of life. Regression and bivariate analyses were used to examine associations among initial opposition, neighbors' current perceptions, and agency communication and outreach techniques.

Results: Just under half of the psychiatric residences experienced initial opposition from neighbors. Agency siting strategies that included neighbor notification and outreach were associated with stronger initial opposition, but there was no significant association between initial opposition and current neighbor perceptions. Few neighbors reported negative views of the group homes and apartments in their neighborhoods. The most common reasons given for their positive perceptions involved support for concepts of social responsibility and collective care for those in need.

Implications: The findings from this sample build empirical support for the anecdotal observations that mental health administrators often report to community leaders and residents: that most neighbors do not hold negative views of the psychiatric residences in their vicinity. The findings regarding neighbors' expressions of social responsibility might inform agency communications in that mental health administrators might choose to speak with more confidence about concepts of collective good when discussing the establishment of residences with community residents.