Abstract: To Stay or Go?: Understanding Ambivalence Toward Moving on from Supportive Housing Among Supportive Housing Residents in a Moving on Initiative (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

To Stay or Go?: Understanding Ambivalence Toward Moving on from Supportive Housing Among Supportive Housing Residents in a Moving on Initiative

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Liberty Ballroom O, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kimberly Livingstone, PhD, Assistant Professor, Plymouth State University, NH
Emmy Tiderington, PhD, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background and Purpose: Moving On initiatives (MOIs) open up permanent supportive housing (PSH) units by transitioning residents to mainstream housing. When offered the opportunity to leave PSH, residents may have compelling reasons to stay. Research has shown that PSH is helpful to assist people to experience improvement in housing stability, community integration, and psychological well-being. However, early findings in MOI housing retention rates have been promising and feelings of improved psychological well-being and increased housing satisfaction post-PSH have been identified. Less is known about factors that create ambivalence when preparing to move on and no study has detailed these factors from the MOI recipients’ perspective. When offered the opportunity to leave PSH, what factors do residents identify pulling them to stay?

Methods: This study utilized interviews with 40 MOI participants, given the opportunity to leave PSH through a MOI. The first author reviewed these transcripts and found that several concepts from a previous study arose in these data. Using a framework analysis approach, an a priori framework was developed to be tested and refined in this new study sample. While previous concepts informed the framework development, the first author remained open to additional concepts brought forth by participants. A priori concepts were also removed from the framework if they did not hold up in this data set. All transcripts were systematically coded using this framework. Coded excerpts were then grouped into emerging themes using a charting method. Lastly, a mapping method was used to create typologies and understand associations between themes. Strategies of rigor in qualitative research used in this study included peer debriefing and member checking with participants.

Results: Scholars have described ontological security as the peace of mind, or mental assurance, gained by reliable social and material surroundings, which include a safe and stable home. Participants found ontological features that pulled them to stay in supportive housing despite the opportunity to move out into the community. Three elements stood out as “pull factors:” secure benefits, autonomy, and comfort. Informants may be compelled to stay in PSH by one or more pull factors, even if they might have to accept other dimensions that are not optimal, and even if those might have been enhanced if they moved out. Within the theory of bounded rationality, “satisficing” occurs when there is no optimal solution and people are left to choose from best available options. That is, individuals were weighing out their lived experience in PSH against what they imagined they might experience if they moved out, and choosing an option that was most likely to satisfy their preferences, even if the chosen option was less than optimal.

Conclusions and Implications: To encourage more positive exits from PSH, MOIs and the homeless service system should work on mitigating barriers and put protections in place for individuals and families. This study also highlights some of the secure benefits of living in PSH while making clear some of the perceived drawbacks which programs can work to address in an effort to improve services.