Previous Projects

The Community Attitudes about Supportive Housing (CHARP) Study

Finding supportive and inclusive community environments is a persistent challenge for individuals with psychiatric disabilities.  Poor quality of housing, distressed neighborhoods, and lack of affordable independent apartments contribute to many of the difficulties people with psychiatric disabilities experience as they participate in community settings.  For this study, we partnered with Jim Hlava, Vice President of Housing at Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, to examine housing and neighborhood factors that can affect adaptive functioning, community inclusion, and well-being for individuals with psychiatric disabilities.  In total, we interviewed 176 individuals residing in Cascadia supportive housing across 16 neighborhoods in the greater Portland metropolitan area.  We found that the majority of residents reported being satisfied with their housing, neighborhoods, and health services.  However, residents reported high levels of social isolation and a desire to engage in more independent activities in the community.  We are currently conducting the NASH Study to examine potential ways to increase linkages between residents of supportive housing and their neighbors in the broader community.  

The Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyle (HEAL) Focus Group Study

Individuals served by the public mental health system die an average of 25 years earlier than members of the general public, largely from preventable disease and suboptimal healthcare.  To address this important public health issue, we collaborated with Luke-Dorf, a community mental health center in Portland, OR, to evaluate their Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyle (HEAL) intervention.  For this qualitative component of the evaluation, we conducted focus groups among 22 individuals with serious mental illnesses residing in six supportive housing sites in the Pacific Northwest.  We identified factors that predict participation in physical health activities, including facilitators and barriers to engagement; health and wellness goals; and the potential role of social support in facilitating engagement.   Please read more about our findings here!

Understanding the Experience of Place for Homeless Youth

Although previous studies have informed our understanding of certain aspects of youth homelessness, few studies have critically examined the spatial and social environments utilized by youth as they navigate life on the streets.  For this project, we partnered with p:ear (an acronym for project: education, art, recreation), a nonprofit community center in downtown Portland whose work focuses on building positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth.  We used participatory mapping and Geographic Information Systems to examine the activity spaces of 28 homeless youth.  Results suggest that youth engage most frequently in service-related activities, and their activity participation is significantly associated with their sense of community and psychological well-being.  Results have implications for activity and service programming and illustrate the utility of innovative participatory methods for better understanding the diverse experiences of youth experiencing homelessness.  See pictures of the project team, maps and activity spaces below!