Group homes for mixed age groups


Having a goal of providing a full size/full functioning apartment even if efficiency size for homeless or low income people may be supportive of individual need for privacy and autonomy, however if the goal is to support health and improving functional living skills then a group home with private sleep accommodations and lockable areas for personal things, and group areas for cooking, daycare, and recreation might be more effective and less expensive.

In my professional career I worked with low income populations with young children or in prenatal points in time before a first child had arrived. A common complaint I heard about my job from some people not in need of help was that it was unnecessary or wasteful for the government to provide food and education for low income women and families. A common complaint also seemed to suggest that anyone receiving aid was a lazy or not trying or a user. In my experience this was not true of most participants. While some did seem to just want food benefits and seemed to feel entitled to receiving help from others with no exchange of cooperation with the larger health and education goals, most recipients were extremely grateful for the help and just wanted a job or a better job so that they wouldn’t need the external source of government aid. Some areas of the country have plenty of jobs but housing is too expensive to be able to live nearby and commutes add time and expense to get to the job, while other areas don’t have enough jobs and housing may be available nearby but it is old and inefficient for the climate (too expensive to heat or cool and dehumidify in extreme temperatures).

Current systems that provide housing aid generally provide individual living units. While that supports individual tastes in personal habits and food choices it is more expensive than group cooking facilities would cost. It is also currently very difficult to remove children from a low functioning home unless something like drug use is discovered. A group living facility with group daycare and group kitchen facilities could require a certain amount of volunteer hours from people living in the group home and additional staff could be present to provide guidance and over-site of the management of the larger goals of providing healthy variety in food and activities. Lower functioning parents would be mixing with better role models of parenting and/or at least the children would be mixing with better role models of what effective caregiving is like. Even having one positive adult role model in a child’s life can help a child become a well functioning pro-social adult instead of becoming a dysfunctional adult.

An advantage of providing group homes from the perspective of the common complaint of not wanting to give handouts to the ‘undeserving’ would be that a group home wouldn’t be the same as a regular efficiency or larger apartment. The people living in a group home might end up actually preferring the continuity and social benefits of living in a community or they might improve their skills and health and access to regular employment so that they could earn their way into their own regular type of housing.

Dormitory style housing units plans that already exist could be a starting point in designing a low income group home but they are not ideal for a mixed range of ages and interests. The group areas in college dormitories are designed for one type of age range and aren’t child friendly. A group home for mixed ages and types of families and single people might have more homelike, smaller rooms so that smaller groups could enjoy a variety of types of activities or television shows. Sleeping accommodations might be shared with lockable cupboards available such as those found at bus stations for a few personal items. Or small private sleep areas might be preferred for single people and small families. Compared to a tent or sleeping in a car, or sleeping sitting up in a public area, even a very small private room would be a luxury.

All people appreciate respect and feeling valued can improve self esteem and willingness to work towards improving. Feeling marginalized or observing others being marginalized has been associated with increased risk for violence. Experiencing child trauma or domestic violence has also been associated with increased risk for violence. Being male and having a history of binge drinking has also bee associated with increased risk for violence. if we want less violence and less mass shooting incidents in our society than instead of focusing primarily on gun control it would make sense to focus more help on providing children with safer environments and providing them with more pro-social role models in their lives. Child trauma happens and the children who have a positive adult role model in their lives are the ones who are more likely to develop resilience and pro-social habits as adults.

If we want less violence and fewer mass shooters then it seems reasonable to focus on promoting fewer people prone to violence. Targeting the underlying issues that have been associated with risk for violence makes more sense than simply trying to take away guns – there are a lot more guns and other means for violence available than there are people prone to violence. Trying to provide more effective alcohol abuse treatment could be helpful as that is a risk factor. Reducing marginalization of minorities and mental illness could help reduce the risk of observers with similar problems feeling hopeless and helpless about their own situations and reduce their risk for violence.

Group homes might be a helpful solution for low income people or veterans, homeless, low functioning, mentally ill but non-violent individuals, people trying to end addictive behavior patterns, or non-violent people with a history of a prison record. Some group homes might be focused more on people with children and some on single people or mixed ‘villages’ might be better for both groups. It takes a village to raise a child and children can be a delight and reason for hope in all age groups. Respecting and valuing elders in a community might be easier for a child who had plenty of story time with a variety of grandma and grandpa types in their lives.

Villages are small ideally, for human comfort level. Business research regarding the most effective size for individual team/facility units within a larger corporation has found that around 150 people is what works best for individual workers, and psychology research supports that our brains have comfort levels for community size. Smaller apartment buildings/group homes that seek to shelter around 150 people per unit might be most conducive to building a sense of community within the occupants then having larger units. Or within larger units small communities could be organized around smaller communal living areas, cooking and daycare facilities.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.