Qualitative Study on the Usage of Single Room Occupancies to House Severely Mentally Ill & Low-Income Homeless Individuals

Qualitative Study on the Usage of Single Room Occupancies to House Severely Mentally Ill & Low-Income Homeless Individuals


In January 2018, BSW student Lavon Petersen conducted a mixed-methods analysis of the impacts of using single room occupancies (SROs) to house persons experiencing severe mental ill (SMI). SROs are the most common type of supported housing designed to house those persons whose income falls far below the poverty threshold.  Thus, the intention of this research study was to develop an unbiased view on the current issues that ascend across supported housing programs for SMI and obtain the consumer’s perspective on their supported housing experiences. For the purpose of this research study, supported housing site Pauahi Hale (operated by Safe Haven) located in Honolulu, Hawaii was assessed. 


Recently, supported housing was considered necessary for individuals experiencing severe mental illness who also experience chronic homelessness in Honolulu.  Additionally, the influence of supportive housing for mentally distressed persons, the expenses, and consumer permanence was thoroughly examined in previous studies, along with brief descriptions of residents who utilized the supportive housing services within a supported housing venue.  However, there are not recent analyses that critically survey the consumer’s perspective of their daily experiences while residing in a supported housing environment.  Ultimately, the purpose of this study contained two components: (1) To determine if SRO housing is the best option to house SMI and (2) To develop a thematic description from consumer’s perspective on changes needed to enhance services to the current housing program.  As a result, this qualitative study positions the groundwork for the expansion of policies that can be useful to housing agencies that provide supportive services to chronically homeless populations. Additionally, the themes derived from this study also provide a set of characteristics that are vital for future service delivery at supported housing establishments and can be useful for future program evaluation.


Although the premise of this study was to outline several critical features of the Housing First model, it was difficult to disregard the themes that were established as a result of the semi-structured resident interviews.  The main themes that originated from the participants of this study included:

  • Affordability: Most residents were satisfied with paying only 30% of their monthly income for rent. These were residents whose income exceeded $800.00 per month.
  • Safety: More than 50% of the residents are concerned with the safety of the neighborhood. Crime reports within the neighborhood of this establishment indicate an increase in robberies and assaults. 
  • Supportive Services: A majority of the residents reported they benefit from formal supportive services such as case management, on-sight medical care, peer coaching, and others.
  • Independence: The participants in this study concluded that they have a sense of pride and achievement as a result of independent living in this SRO with rules that are easy to abide by.
  • Social Interaction: Most agreed that interpersonal relationships amongst residents were useful at this SRO.


Throughout this study, the researcher created a thematic description of the residents with suggestions elicited for program improvement. The findings in this study indicate that the consumers were interested in maintaining affordable rent costs, increasing social interaction amongst other residents, community involvement, and expanding formal supportive services to all residents within this SRO. Although the findings are specific only to Pauahi Hale, it is definitely worth noting that this program is in its infancy stage in this neighborhood as well as the cohabiting of severely mentally ill and low-income residents.  Thus, the researcher recommended to the program director that the findings be disseminated among other agencies that provide similar supported housing services to low-income and individuals experiencing severe mentally illness.  Through sharing this vital information, this can act as a catalyst for further research to determine if this form of public policy should remain the current solution to housing low-income and severely mentally ill persons in a single room occupancy.