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Letters   |    
Supported Housing and the Lamppost—or Supported Housing in the Spotlight?: In Reply
Kim Hopper, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.20120p720a
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Copyright © 2012 by the American Psychiatric Association.

In Reply: Padgett's observations are well taken. I agree: supported housing is a step “in the right direction”; that is why I tried to bracket an inquiry into its limits within a pair of tributes to its achievements.

But that said, in sociological terms, abeyance denotes a function, not a facility, and “control over the poor” is too loaded a characterization for the range of institutions that historically have served that function. (Intact families and regular work, as Piven and Cloward [1] pointed out some time ago, also serve important “social control” functions.) Not all abeyance institutions confine or consign to second-class citizenship. Prisons do both miserably and stigmatize for life. But think instead of the G.I. Bill, the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, or, for that matter, intentional communities and religious orders. Some offer a liminal time-out that prepares one for a better equipped second try. Others supply nonmarket alternative livelihoods that revolve around and contribute to collective life. Still others, like the beguinages, make inventive use of default options. Founded in the aftermath of population growth and ruinous wars in 12th century Europe, these segregated communities of “surplus” unmarriageable women managed not only to thrive but to reproduce themselves over the centuries by attracting new recruits to what became valued academies of learning (2). (I had the good fortune to meet the last surviving resident of one in Kortrijk, Belgium.)

The problem with mental health versions of abeyance is that, devised as stop-gap expediencies and assigned what many consider essential “dirty work” (3,4), their day-to-day operations tend to escape scrutiny and their effects (by design or default) go uninterrogated. So one might (as Padgett does) read “visible edifices” as “ironic commentary” on the industry's benighted view of social integration. New York's hulking “adult homes” come to mind. But there are other “congregate settings”—Dorothy Day Apartments in West Harlem, for example—that offer striking evidence of effective designs that integrate secure housing with neighborhood benefit (in Harlem, early childhood learning, tutoring, and arts programs).

More to the point, social segregation is a question not of place but of participatory parity—social arrangements that permit adult members of society to interact with one another as peers (5). And so a more tempered version of my screed would have inquired into tacit assumptions behind largely invisible scatter-site housing to ask what less happy purposes might they serve. In any event, Padgett's letter gives me an opportunity to correct a misimpression: mine was meant as backhanded compliment, not frontal assault.

Piven  FF;  Cloward  RA:  Regulating the Poor .  New York,  Random House, 1971
 
Mizruchi  EH:  Regulating Society .  Chicago,  University of Chicago Press, 1987
 
Hughes  EC:  Good people and dirty work.  Social Problems 10:3–11, 1962
[CrossRef]
 
Scull  AT:  Decarceration: Community Treatment and the Deviant .  Englewood Cliffs, NJ,  Prentice-Hall, 1977
 
Fraser  N:  Justice Interruptus .  New York,  Routledge, 1997
 
References Container
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References

Piven  FF;  Cloward  RA:  Regulating the Poor .  New York,  Random House, 1971
 
Mizruchi  EH:  Regulating Society .  Chicago,  University of Chicago Press, 1987
 
Hughes  EC:  Good people and dirty work.  Social Problems 10:3–11, 1962
[CrossRef]
 
Scull  AT:  Decarceration: Community Treatment and the Deviant .  Englewood Cliffs, NJ,  Prentice-Hall, 1977
 
Fraser  N:  Justice Interruptus .  New York,  Routledge, 1997
 
References Container
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