Supportive housing is proving to be the most successful type of housing for those who had been institutionalized or rendered homeless because they could not get the services, supports, and decent, safe, integrated housing they needed. It is enabling people with mental disabilities to live in the community like everyone else, as envisioned by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Studies have shown that supportive housing leads to more housing stability, improvement in mental health symptoms, reduced hospitalization and interaction with the criminal justice system, and increased satisfaction with quality of life.
Three basic principles guide supportive housing. First, supportive housing gives participants immediate, permanent housing in their own apartments or homes. Treatment compliance and sobriety are not requirements for obtaining housing. Supportive housing tenants have the same rights and responsibilities as any other tenant.
Second, individuals in supportive housing have access to a comprehensive array of services and supports, from crisis mental health services to cooking tutors to employment training. Services are provided as needed to ensure successful tenancy and to support the person’s recovery and engagement in community life. All services are voluntary. Third, supportive housing facilitates full integration into the community. Individuals are encouraged to integrate into the community through employment, volunteer work and social activities.
Supportive housing is less costly than other forms of government-financed housing for people with disabilities. Even for clients who have faced the most serious difficulties, quality supportive housing, including community treatment and support services, compares favorably with the cost of traditional mental health housing and services. The cost of serving a person in supportive housing is half the cost of a shelter, a quarter the cost of imprisonment, and a tenth the cost of a state psychiatric hospital bed. Moreover, most of the cost of supportive housing can be funded through existing programs, including Medicaid and federal housing and rental assistance programs.