This study explores how consumers expect community-based residential mental health rehabilitation to compare with previous experiences of care. Understanding what consumers hope to receive from mental health services, and listening to their perspectives about what has and has not worked in previous care settings, may illuminate pathways to improved service engagement and outcomes. A mixed-methods research design taking a pragmatic approach to grounded theory guided the analysis of 24 semi-structured interviews with consumers on commencement at three Community Care Units (CCUs) in Australia. Two of these CCUs were trialling a staffing model integrating peer support work with clinical care. All interviews were conducted by an independent interviewer within the first 6 weeks of the consumer's stay. All participants expected the CCU to offer an improvement on previous experiences of care. Comparisons were made to acute and subacute inpatient settings, supported accommodation, and outpatient care. Consumers expected differences in the people (staff and co-residents), the focus of care, physical environ, and rules and regulations. Participants from the integrated staffing model sites articulated the expected value of a less clinical approach to care. Overall, consumers’ expectations aligned with the principles articulated in policy frameworks for recovery-oriented practice. However, their reflections on past care suggest that these services continue to face significant challenges realizing these principles in practice. Paying attention to the kind of working relationship consumers want to have with mental health services, such as the provision of choice and maintaining a practical and therapeutic supportive focus, could improve their engagement and outcomes.