Having one’s own home — whether it is an apartment, a furnished room, or a house — is the cornerstone of independence for people. When a person has a decent, safe and affordable home, he or she has the opportunity to become part of the community. With stable permanent housing, people with mental illness are able to achieve other important life goals and, therefore, recovery.
Lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most significant barriers to recovery for people living with mental illness; a safe place to live is essential to recovery. Without options to meet this basic need, too many cycle in and out of homelessness, jails, shelters and emergency departments—or remain institutionalized. Nearly one million adults with mental illness have been homeless. With average disability incomes of just 18 percent of the median income, most cannot afford decent housing.
An array of housing options, a continuum, is critical to providing people living with mental illness the stability they need to achieve recovery outcomes, therefore reducing the utilization of shelters, hospitalizations and involvement with the criminal justice system.
Continuum Model Housing Options
Supervised Group Housing
This type of housing provides the most care for its residents. Residents generally share a room with at least one other person. These facilities need to be licensed by the state. The license must be posted in the facility for the public to view. The license requires that the facility provide safe and clean conditions in which to live. Residents have their own bed, dresser and closet space. Bathrooms and common areas are shared. Some supports supervised group housing can provide are:
- 24-hour supervision and assistance.
- Assistance in performing basic daily living skills.
- Assistance with medication.
- Food and meals (no less than three meals per day).
- Assistance with paying bills and managing money.
- Company from other residents and house managers, which can help to ease loneliness.
- Assistance with making doctor’s appointments and usually assists with transportation.
- Day programs.
Partially Supervised Group Housing
This type of housing provides support for its residents, but staff is not there 24 hours a day. Residents can be left alone for several hours and are able to call for help if needed. Generally, residents share a room with at least one other person.
- Provides minimal supervision and assistance
- Daily living skills are performed independently or semi-independently
- Most residents help with cooking and cleaning
- Residents are usually encouraged to participate in a day program or hold a part-time job
- Other residents help to ease loneliness
This type of housing provides the least amount of assistance. Residents are left alone for large amounts of time. However, there is usually someone they can call for assistance. Some houses will have residents sharing a room; others will not. (e.g., group homes with no on-site 24 hour care).
- Residents are able to live fairly independently
- Residents are able to call someone if a problem arises
- Other residents help to ease loneliness
Subsidized or Independent funds (e.g., private market, public and non-profit housing).
This type of housing is for someone who is completely independent. Tenants are able to care for all their basic needs. Representative payees and caseworkers can still be a vital part of the tenant’s life.
- Residents are able to live independently
- Resident may pay own bills or have a representative payee
- Resident has own space and privacy
- Resident is responsible for cleaning home
- Resident can take medications and cook for self
- Resident may have a caseworker to assist with making doctor’s appointments and arranging transportation
- Resident will call landlord for repairs
- Resident has custody of children or is seeking custody of children
- Resident may be active in day programs or has a job
Owner is able to live completely independent. The owner has all the responsibilities of day to day living and then all of the responsibilities of caring for and maintaining the home.
- Homeowner is able to live independently
- Homeowner is able to care for a home (clean home, maintain yard, complete home repairs) or pay someone to assist them
- Homeowner is willing to stay in one location for longer periods of time than a renter
- Homeowners handle their bills and money themselves
- Homeowners have custody of their children or are seeking custody
- Homeowners should have a steady job or income; income can be Social Security Disability
- Homeowners are able to maintain taxes and insurance on home
- Homeowners must seek out social interaction and be willing to stay active in the community. Homeowners may still participate in day programs, but if not, needs to be willing to stay socially active
- Homeowners must know where main cutoff valves for water and gas are and know how to disconnect electric in case of emergency or repairs
- Homeowners set aside funds for emergencies (about 5 percent of monthly income).
Learn more about the importance of housing options for people living with mental illness, visit Recovery Within Reach.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) homelessness resources
The Corporation for Supported Housing