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The Role of Housing Cooperatives In Mental Health Care

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Cooperatives (or Co-ops for short) have always been around in one way or another. We tend to think of them as farms and grocery stores owned by their own workers. But the truth is, co-op models actually exist in just about every corner of the economy.

This includes mental health care.

How? Through the benefits of cooperative living!

Intrigued? Read on…

What is a Housing Cooperative?

What exactly is cooperative living?

First and foremost housing co-ops address socio-economic inequalities. They do this by providing equity, financial parity, and emotional safety to traditionally marginalized peoples.

How do they do that? Through the ownership, access to resources, employment opportunities and a sense of community that comes with community living.

Costs in cooperatives are low due to their shared nature, tax incentives and/or subsidies from the government. That way, members enjoy lower rent/mortgages as well a variety of extended benefits they wouldn’t receive elsewhere.

That often includes mental health care!

Housing cooperatives come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties. They run from condo associations, to permanent supportive housing, to senior housing, to rent controlled apartments.

However different the aim of a co-op community may be -the main themes are always the same: affordability, safety, and community building.

So What do Co-ops have to Do with mental Health?

The answer is a lot!

Now, there’s a lot of neat things about co-ops. But one of the coolest things is that they provide services like mental health care to populations who normally wouldn’t have access to them.

1. Cooperatives Provide Accessible, Affordable Care

From my time in non-profit, I know that the biggest barrier is lack of transportation. It’s all well and good to have a free mental health clinic in your city but it doesn’t do anything for those who can’t afford to travel there.

Housing co-ops help with that! They often provide onsite mental health services such as counselors, workshops, classes, guest speakers, and access to holistic healing programs.

The cool thing is – a board of engaged residents choses the programs instead of a leasing company or an outside organization. This makes the programming more effective because it’s tailored to the community.

Best of all the cost of care is low to members. This is because the income from rent doesn’t go into a private corporation’s pocket, rather it goes right back into providing community services.

2. Cooperatives Provide A Safe Place to Grow Emotionally

Looking at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that it’s impossible for a human being to thrive if their base needs aren’t being met.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs | Simply Psychology

Housing co-ops effectively provide the bottom two tiers of the hierarchy, making sure people have food, shelter and safety along with economic opportunities.

In regards to security, since there’s no landlord involved in the equation residents “have control of one’s living environment and a security of tenure not available in rental housing” according to the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC). No one has to be afraid they’ll lose their living space due to predatory leasing practices.

In addition, NAHC says that providing people with ownership of their surroundings also decreases violence and vandalism.

Economically, the low cost of a housing co-op allows families to better afford food and education opportunities. According to the Food and Research Action Coalition (FRAC) This statistically increases general well-being and provides families with mental and emotional stability.

All this comes together to help residents focus on emotional growth that can only happen when basic needs are satisfied.

3. Cooperatives Build Community

Sharing is caring and nowhere is that more true than a housing co-op.

The people you live with aren’t just your neighbors, they’re the people helping you survive. Heck, without them, the co-op idea essentially wouldn’t function.

This way your neighbors end up being your friends and your friends turn into a family. That kind of camaraderie, that ultimate sense of community is excellent for a person’s mental health.

Seriously, could there be anything more reassuring knowing an entire village has your back in troubled times?

Wrap Up

In recent times more and more municipalities have moved towards the co-op model.

Personally, I love it the idea and wish more places would convert to this model. Why? I think co-operative living provides connection. And connection is a huge factor in an emotionally healthy life.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! And if you want to find out more about the co-op lifestyle, check out this website https://coophousing.org/resources/owning-a-cooperative/buying-into-a-housing-cooperative/

Much Love,

MB

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Mad as Hell Mental Health Rights Advocate. Likes margaritas, long walks on the beach, and JUSTICE.

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