A home but how to connect with others? A qualitative meta-synthesis of experiences of people with mental illness living in supported housing Academic Article uri icon


  • Supported housing principles emphasise the importance of decent, stable and affordable housing, and the provision of individualised support to enable people experiencing mental illness to live in their preferred communities, and to recover. This study sought to synthesise qualitative research addressing the question: how does living in supported housing facilitate social connections and participation from the viewpoints of people living with mental illness? Three databases (CINAHL, PsycINFO, Medline) were systematically searched to identify 19 peer-reviewed reports on 17 studies published during 2001-2016, in which the views and experiences of supported housing residents with mental illness were reported. Most studies were informed by grounded theory and used interview methods. Appraisal indicated the reports were of varying quality, but all met the inclusion criterion of reporting qualitative data relevant to the research question. Constant comparative methods were used to synthesise the reported data, and to identify themes across the studies. There were four overarching themes regarding the lived experience of supported housing for people with mental illness: (a) living in supported housing gave individuals privacy, a sense of control, stability and security; (b) stable housing supported residents' confidence to rebuild an identity and meaning in life, (c) there is a delicate balance between appreciating privacy and dealing with loneliness, and (d) opportunities and support to reconnect with families, friends and community are valued. The meta-synthesis findings highlight that supported housing residents face challenges of protecting their privacy and being lonely when on their own. Individualised support approaches need to attend to personal preferences for social participation and their varied meanings and significance. Further research is required to better understand how individualised forms of support can enable supported housing residents to connect with family, friends and community in their preferred ways.

publication date

  • May 2019