I work in mental health and right now a significant part of my job is administering housing grants to get our homeless clients off the streets. The funding puts them into community housing (not a transitional house or group home) and provides rent assistance that is supposed to last until they can get into permanent housing.

It’s a great program. Here’s the problem: some of my people are losing their housing because they are steeped in homeless culture. One rule is that whoever has resources shares with everyone else. This leads to traffic in and out of apartments, drug use on the property, and disruptive behavior issues. I have a woman who is very vulnerable and really needs to keep her apartment and her landlord called about a complaint of drug use and traffic (it wasn’t drugs, it was her letting homeless people in to shower - the landlord was VERY nice about it). I don’t want to tell people they have to leave their friends behind. I also need them to understand how important housing is, that this is an amazing opportunity, and there are rules that HAVE to be followed. I have very good relationships with several management companies in the area and I work really hard to make sure everyone is getting their needs met, clients and landlords.

There isn’t really any research looking into how to help people transition from homeless to housed and how to address the culture shock. I found research on what resources the individuals need to be successful, but nothing from a clinical perspective. I don’t need to write a master’s thesis (been there), but I would like to have some sort of way to help that transition.

Any thoughts? The population is complicated - serious mental illness, often drug use, medical issues, and most don’t work because they’re disabled and receiving Social Security support. How do I communicate with them, rather than feel like I’m doing no more than handing over a list of rules?