Psychologically Informed Environments for homeless people: resident and staff experiences

Psychologically Informed Environments for homeless people: resident and staff experiences

Many homeless people have significant levels of early adverse experiences and consequent mental health difficulties. This study examines the experiences of residents and staff living and working in a Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE), a new model of hostel for homeless people which aims to update and make more flexible the principles of the therapeutic community, thereby meeting the psychological and emotional needs of residents.

Design and Approach

Semi-structured interviews were carried out with nine residents, ten staff and five psychotherapists at two PIE hostels in London, UK. The data were analysed using thematic analysis with a phenomenological epistemological approach.


Analysis generated 18 themes for residents and staff combined, organised into five domains: what makes a home, resident needs, managing relationships, reflective practice and theory vs practice of PIEs. The study suggests that PIEs broadly meet their aim in providing a different type of environment from standard hostels. Efforts to build relationships with residents are particularly prioritised. This work can be challenging for staff and reflective practice groups provide a supportive forum. There are limits to the extent to which the theoretical PIE can be put into practice in the current political and economic climate.

Originality and Value

This is one of the first qualitative studies of PIEs. It provides perspectives on their theoretical background as well as how they operate and are experienced in practice. It may be informative to services intending to establish a PIE and to commissioners in assessing appropriate resources

JOURNAL: Housing, Care and Support