What are boarding homes?
Boarding homes are privately owned, for-profit housing that tend to house people who have been involved in psychiatric care. Rent is very cheap and often includes three meals a day cooked by careworkers who rarely have any training in mental health care.
The houses are scattered across our country, emerging in response to the deinstitutionalization of the asylums that began the 1950s. The intention in closing down the big, long-term asylums was that people needing psychiatric care would have a better quality of living if they were integrated into the community instead of isolated behind locked doors. Unfortunately, the resources and institutional structures were not in place before the asylums shut. Long-term care became a “revolving door” type of care— where people perpetually do short stints in the hospital, jail, and shelters.
In this confusion, regular people opened boarding homes and offered housing for low prices. They are private and for-profit, and are thus not regulated or have to comply with standards for a health care facility. Of course, there are general safety and privacy guidelines that landlords are supposed to adhere to, but unfortunately many residents do not have the wherewithal to advocate for themselves and ensure these standards are upheld. To this day, boarding homes where much of our mental health care, in terms of housing, is located in our country.