What is Mental Health Housing?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
People suffering from mental illness often end up homeless.
People suffering from mental illness often end up homeless.

Mental health housing refers to a number of different housing options for people identified as mentally ill or as recovering from substance abuse issues. The term is broad, covering a variety of housing strategies that may include anything from hospitalization to independent living. This concept varies and degree of available mental health housing may depend on region and funding.

It used to be standard to hospitalize most people with mental illness. Such hospitalization was expensive, since it required a full medical staff. For those with severe illness, this may still be the first option, though there are plenty of homeless people with mental illness would cannot gain access to hospitals or, when leaving them, cannot or do not comply with treatment to stay well. To address this, many communities have step down care that might involve having the homeless person live in a residential treatment facility or in group homes with others who are ill. In order to address issues like med-compliance, these folks might attend day programs, learning additional skills to handle illness.

Similarly, those recovering from severe alcoholism, drug addiction or dual diagnosis (addiction and mental illness), could have the option to stay in facilities like a halfway house. They share cleaning and caretaking responsibilities with other members of the house and they usually have access to counseling or care from house supervisors. Eventually, the goal of halfway house living is to restore the person to the community.

Sometimes mental health housing is available for people who are compliant with treatment, but are so fogged or impacted by treatment that they may not be able to earn enough to be self sufficient. Programs like Section 8 in the US have people pay a small percentage of money earned to have their own living quarters of varying sizes. Generally, people applying for this must qualify by income and must be stable enough to apply.

Another option is private board with families in regular residences. Some homeowners with larger homes may rent rooms, and agree to keep an eye out on a person who needs a little extra care. In this scenario things like food and cleaning may be provided by one of the homeowners.

In some countries, higher rates of homelessness have been linked directly to government decisions to eliminate 24-hour care for patients, and some decisions in the past few decades have created considerable demand in certain countries for better forms of mental health housing. Countries or smaller regions do not always meet these demands, and can slash or cut programs that would address not only homelessness issues but also supervising housing needs of many people identified as mentally ill. What this means for a person seeking mental health housing is there may be competition to gain access to it and/or that variation will exist in types available per community. The best way to get help is to work with community social workers or organizations dedicated to assisting the mentally ill.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • People suffering from mental illness often end up homeless.
      People suffering from mental illness often end up homeless.