History of Boarding Homes

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 inexpensive and often includes three meals a day. There is usually a staff person on site who cooks the meals, cleans, and often dispenses medications (although they are not health care providers).

The houses are scattered across our country, emerging in response to the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric facilities. The intention in closing down these institutions 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 to support them were not in place before the facilities closed. What remained available was a “revolving door”— of short stints in the hospital, jail, and shelters.

In this confusion, regular people opened boarding homes and offered housing for low prices. The homes are private and for-profit, and many are licensed by the city. To this day, boarding homes are where much of our mental health care, in terms of housing, is located in our country.


Carol Westcott