The relationship between housing and recovery from mental illness has been recognised by users and providers of mental health services in New Zealand in a number of reports and discussion papers (Mental Health Commission, 1999; Ministry of Social Development, 2002; Kites Trust, 2002; Fenton, 2004). The Mental Health Commission (1999) describes this relationship as follows:
“The provision of adequate, affordable and secure housing is critical to recovery, continued well-being and independence—conversely, poor housing can impair a person’s ability to recover from mental illness and function independently” (p12).
The research project was a localised attempt to explore the housing needs of mental health consumers/tāngata whaiora and the consequences for their wellbeing. Specifically, the overall aim of the research project, as determined by KHAG, was: to explore mental health consumers’/tāngata whaiora experiences of housing needs in the Kapiti Coast region.
The objectives of the research were:
1. To explore mental health consumers’/tāngata whaiora experiences of housing in regard to affordability, suitability, habitability, accessibility, security of tenure, and discrimination;
2. To explore mental health consumers’/tāngata whaiora perspectives on the adequacy of their housing situations, and their satisfaction levels with their situations;
3. To explore the effects of housing situations on mental health consumers’/tāngata whaiora well-being.
KHAG decided that in order for the research to adequately address the overall aim and the specific objectives of the research project, it would need to be a qualitative study involving face-to-face interviews and small focus groups. Whilst the primary focus of the research was to be mental health consumers’ own experiences of housing needs, KHAG recognised that it should also include community perspectives: those of families whose members included people with experience of mental illness, and those of community organisations that were involved in some capacity with mental health consumers. The study therefore involved two types of participant: consumer/tāngata whaiora participants and community participants.