Why does bullying emerge in "elderly" subsidized housing? Subsidized buildings that house both elderly and younger disabled persons, all from a wide variety of backgrounds, can be fertile ground for bullying. Bullying can emerge when management does not take responsibility for enforcing formal systems of fair and reasonable rules for getting along, leaving residents to use informal means to bring order to the building. Their efforts may include the use of bullying, as illustrated in the story of Heights Manor, "Influx Of Residents With Disabilities Leads To Clashes."(1)
Events at Heights Manor echo the story at “Bleak House.” Each apartment complex is a multi-family residential building or complex that is privately owned and HUD-subsidized. Heights Manor is in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, formerly for elderly, but now with many younger persons living with disability. Bleak House is in Riverby, a community on the North Shore near Boston, Massachusetts.(2)
Minnesota is currently trying to move disabled people out of segregated situations, and HUD housing must accept disabled as well as elderly applicants.
In such mixed settings, the elderly residents try to enforce their old building culture and the informal as well as formal rules that have served them in the past. They see themselves as "guardians" of good and proper order in the building, but their efforts are seen by the targets, such as the disabled, as bullying. But group bullying can take place between people of any category, not solely between elderly and disabled.
In my research, to be reported in Stop Bullying (soon to be published) I have found that bullying and mobbing emerge in the absence of a formal framework to integrate people of diverse capabilities, ages, and origins; the lack of a suitable management policy; and the desire of individuals to form support groups. Competition for scarce resources and for control of the social life of the complex leads to extremes, with individuals being forced out or, when management joins the bullying and adds mobbing, leading to unfair evictions.
The Stop Bullying Coalition is seeking to advance legislation in Massachusetts, initially to create a legislative study commission to address the problem. The Legislature is considering Senate No. 709: Resolve Creating a Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing.
(2) "Bleak House" and "Riverby" are fictional names of real places.