Finding housing can be one of the most difficult factors in dealing with a mental illness. This article is meant to help guide you through the process.

What factors should be considered as part of a housing decision?

  • How much can you afford to pay?
  • Is the neighborhood pleasant? Is it safe?
  • If you share your living space, will your housemates be compatible?
  • Is the house, apartment, or room in good condition?
  • Is transportation to shopping and your treatment center nearby?
  • How much support will you need to carry out everyday activities?
  • Does your prospective landlord have a reputation for responding promptly and courteously to tenants’ requests?

Also, have the lease reviewed before you sign on the dotted line. If you need help with finding a place, filling out forms, or reviewing a lease, your caseworker is a valuable resource.

If you do not have a caseworker, contact the advocacy group or the housing specialist at the public mental health agency nearest you.

Do programs exist to help open the door to home ownership?

Programs, such as those administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, exist to open the door to home ownership for people with disabilities and who have low to moderate incomes.

The level of help varies with the programs, which are joint ventures between state and local home ownership coalitions.

Examples of the kinds of assistance you might receive include:

financial counseling; assistance with a down payment, closing costs, and property repairs to meet inspection requirements; and financial support to prevent delinquency on a loan if you are unable to make your mortgage payment due to hospitalization or another unforeseen difficulty.

Where can I get a referral to such a program?

It is important to keep in mind that not all states and localities have these programs, and funds for these programs are often limited.

For a referral to a local agency that has information about such programs, call the Housing Counseling Line of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-569-4287 or 1-888-466-3487.

What are the different types of housing programs that are available?

Public Housing: Although the kinds of housing vary from State to State, public housing programs basically operate as follows:

  • Section 8 – The tenant-based rental assistance program provides vouchers or certificates to subsidize rent. Under this program, a person pays either 30 percent of his or her adjusted income, 10 percent of gross income, or the welfare assistance amount designated for housing. The certificate or voucher pays the remainder of the rent to the landlord.
  • Chapter 9 – The project-based rental assistance program offers landlords an incentive to provide housing for people with disabilities by tying the subsidy to the rental building. The demand for this housing also outstrips the number of available units.

Other Housing: States and localities also fund housing programs. In addition, some for-profit organizations offer housing for people with disabilities.

Contact your local or state mental health authority to find out about licensing and required services. In general, many localities offer several of the following options:

  • Private Residential Housing,
  • Commercial Boarding Homes,
  • Supported Independent Living,
  • Personal Care Group Homes,
  • Community Residential Rehabilitation Centers,
  • Structured Residential Programs, and
  • 24-Hour Care Homes and Nursing Facilities.

Who can I contact for more information?

To find the best housing option for you, work closely with your caseworker or the housing coordinator at your CMHC.

In addition, your local affiliates of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) should have information on housing options in your area. Check your telephone directory, or call the national offices for a referral to your local affiliate.