One of the biggest issues some people with mental illness face is the availability of housing. For many people, having a mental health condition has no impact on their housing. Most people can and do live independently in apartments or in their own homes. For others, the cascading effects of mental illness might leave them in a precarious housing situation, or even cause them to lose their homes. Having a safe and secure place to live is an important part of recovery, along with access to services that enable those with mental health conditions to live as independently as possible.
Having a mental health condition can make finding and keeping a home challenging. If you are poor, renting an apartment may be beyond your means. Affordable housing may be available, but located in unsafe or hard to reach places. You may be placed in a group home or apartment where there will be rules to follow and you will be living at close quarters with people you don't know. Your illness can interfere with your ability to comply with rules, keep your home up, get along with others or meet lease requirements. Nonetheless, there is cause for hope as you travel along your road to recovery. Although it may take some time to find yourself a home, the different types of housing described here can provide you with the services, support and affordability that you need at this time in your life.
Our mission is to provide people with mental illness the opportunity to live independently in the community of their choice with dignity and respect. Poverty, unemployment, and lack of affordable housing are commonly recognized causes of homelessness. These risk factors can be exacerbated by personal vulnerabilities such as mental and substance use disorders, trauma and violence, domestic violence, justice-system involvement, sudden serious illness, divorce, death of a partner, and disabilities.
The Housing and Homeless Programs of SCDMH provide technical assistance and funding through vendor contracts to organizations, primarily non-profit organizations, that provide housing and services to persons with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
The Housing program works in partnership with local mental health centers and interested organizations to fund and develop safe, decent, affordable housing with supportive services for our constituents. Patients typically have incomes of less than $550 per month, and therefore must receive subsidies to be able to afford standard housing.
The program contracts with nonprofit organizations to fund a portion of the total project cost. Other sources of funding for housing include federal dollars (HUD Section 811 program, 14UD Continuum of Care Supportive Housing programs for the Homeless) and State dollars (SC State Housing Trust Fund, State HOME Program). We currently have a strong network of over 40 nonprofit groups State-wide interested in housing development. We limit our funding participation to no more than 50% of the total development cost of a housing project, but in recent years, we have leveraged approximately $5 in other (non-DMH) funds for every $1 in DMH funds. The Housing program also contracts with two technical assistance consultants, MHA in SC/Turnkey Housing and Nehemiah Corporation, to provide the additional field work needed to develop the units.
A good housing match is one that meets four key needs.
Housing should be affordable. Ideally, this means you would have to pay no more than 30% of your income for housing costs. Having to pay more may make it hard to afford needs like health care, food or clothing. Many people with mental illness may have low incomes. To meet housing costs they may need additional financial assistance, like government-funded rental assistance or rental subsidies.
Housing should offer the right amount of independence. An important part of housing is the freedom to choose where and what type you want. Different types of housing can offer someone living with mental illness different levels of independence and care, so it’s important to determine which type would work best for you.
Housing should meet your physical needs. If you have a mental illness and a physical disability you may need housing features like ramps or alarms with blinking lights. Many people with mental illness also may not drive and therefore would need a home close to treatment providers and community resources, as well as public transportation.
Housing should be discrimination-free. The Fair Housing Act bars discrimination in rental housing based on disability. This means that landlords and property owners cannot refuse to rent to you because of a disability. They must also make reasonable accommodations and allow for modifications to fit your needs.
Housing options range from completely independent living to 24/7 care. The type of housing that is right for you can depend on whether you need assistance paying your bills, cleaning, making appointments or require no assistance at all. Choose a type of housing that fits your individual needs so your recovery can be your priority.
Supervised Group Housing – This type of housing provides the most support for its residents. Trained staff members are present 24/7 to provide care and assistance with things like medication, daily living skills, meals, paying bills, transportation and treatment management. These group homes provide their residents with their own bed, dresser and closet space, and shared bathrooms and common areas. This is the best type of housing for people experiencing a serious mental illness which may affect their ability to perform their daily tasks.
Partially Supervised Group Housing – Some support is provided for the residents, but staff isn’t there 24 hours a day. The residents can be left alone for several hours and are able to call for help if needed. People who choose to stay in these group homes can perform their daily living tasks independently or semi-independently, help with cooking and cleaning and may even hold a part-time job or participate in a day program.
Supportive Housing – Supportive housing provides very limited assistance. The residents of these homes live almost independently and are visited by staff members infrequently. However, they do have someone to call and resources available to them if a problem does arise.
Rental Housing – This type of housing is for someone who is completely independent. Rent can be paid for in full by the individual or subsidized by a third party, such as the government or a non-profit agency. Someone who chooses this type of housing can take care of all their basic needs like cooking, cleaning, paying bills and managing their medication. They also may have a job and have or be seeking custody of children. If this is the right type of housing for you then you will still most likely work with a caseworker to manage and maintain the different aspects of your recovery.
Home Ownership – A homeowner is able to live completely independent and manage both their responsibilities of day to day living and the responsibilities of caring for and maintaining a home. They must be able to stay in one location for longer than renters and should involve themselves in the community. A homeowner is usually someone who has a steady income, can handle their bills and can maintain taxes and insurance on their home.
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