In a disability context, “institution” means something like “an organization that keeps disabled folks separate from mainstream society and under the control of others”.
It used to be fairly common practice for families (under great pressure from…
I live in such a housing complex. Entirely disabled and elderly, nobody else lives here. Over a hundred residents. Everyone in town thinks we are a nursing home.
We are not a nursing home. And we are not an institution. Not even close.
This is why the building doesn’t make a place an institution.
There are institutions that don’t look like “institutional” buildings.
There are places that look like “institutional” buildings. Including where I live. That are absolutely not institutions. Even when they’re shitty in other ways because subsidized housing often is.
Things that make me shiver and want to throw up: The “hospital without walls” program. Terrifying. Definitely an institution. But each resident lives in their own apartment in separate apartment complexes. They think it’s progress. It’s awful. I’ve seen similar institutions for DD people. I call them “distributed institutions”.
This is why I can’t give an exact time frame for how long I was institutionalized. I spent a total of a year and a half, roughly, in locked mental institutions and residential facilities. But I was also in community institutions and distributed institutions. This messed with my head far worse than being locked up.
That’s why these things are important.
The place I get services from is sometimes institutional and sometimes not depending on what clients they serve. They don’t believe they are institutional at all. This is dangerous.
But my actual apartment building is not an institution and most people here are disabled. (Whether also elderly or not.) And the rest are elderly but not disabled. The building looks institutional inside and out. People think it’s a nursing home. Etc. And it’s a shitty place to live in many ways, and the owners have even endangered residents in ways that resulted in death in at least one occasion. Still not an institution. Can’t explain the difference. And I have very good institution radar.