“I’m so happy. I’m a brand new person.”
Nettie spent 15 years staying at one of Boston’s largest homeless shelters. During the day, she volunteered at a local day shelter, where many people didn’t even know she was homeless herself. In 2007, Nettie entered MHSA’s Home & Healthy for Good program, which provides her with a place to live and supportive services. Thanks to her improved access to health care, Nettie was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer at a routine check-up—an appointment that she would not have had if she was still homeless. Today she is in remission, and she feels great. “This connection to health care has literally saved her life,” affirms Sue, Nettie’s case manager.
Some homeless individuals have disabling conditions—including substance use, mental health issues and other medical challenges—that prevent them from accessing traditional, compliance-based programs. Housing First programs prioritize moving individuals into housing first. Once they have the stability of housing, tenants have access to support services to help them address their complex health issues while working toward goals like education, employment and reconnecting with family members.
“I’m in a good place right now.”
Sarah found herself homeless after struggling with addiction and personal tragedy. She became addicted to prescription pain killers as she attempted to deal with a difficult surgery, divorce and the loss of her father – all at the same time. But Sarah’s life turned around once she moved into stable housing, supported by services funded through a Medicaid reimbursement initiative. She has reconnected with family, and she works full-time at a homeless shelter, helping other homeless women.
Integrating Health Care and Housing
Individuals experiencing chronic or persistent homelessness are often among the highest utilizers of costly emergency health care and other public systems of care. MHSA advocates for initiatives that link health care and housing for this vulnerable population. The Community Support Program for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness (CSPECH), an innovation of the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership and MHSA, is a proven model of Medicaid reimbursement that can help fund permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals.
“As fast as I went down, I got right back on my feet again.”
When Kyle’s housing situation in Charlestown fell through, he found himself spiraling into a drinking binge. Without access to money to secure another apartment, he had nowhere to go. “Everything just crashed at once,” he says. “And I’ve never been in that position before.” Kyle spent a cold January night on the Boston Common before moving to a nearby shelter. He had applied for two apartments, both which became available shortly after he became homeless. The catch was that Kyle didn’t have money for the initial move-in expenses. Through the Emergency Solutions Grant Rapid Re-Housing Program, Kyle was able to access rental assistance to cover his security deposit and first few months of rent. With support from the rapid re-housing advocate, he cut back on his drinking and moved into his new studio within a week, where he remains stably housed.
Rapid re-housing helps homeless individuals move quickly from emergency shelters or the streets into housing. Rapid re-housing funds are flexible, offering short- and medium-term rental subsidies, security deposits, utility assistance, or other start-up costs to individuals who need support securing housing.
Homeless shelters have become an acceptable “housing” alternative for those exiting state systems of care. However, shelters do not have the capacity to address the unique needs of people coming from mental health, public health, corrections, youth services, and social services systems. Discharges into the shelter system are costly and ineffective, and MHSA advocates for appropriate discharge planning as a strategy to end homelessness. LEARN MORE >
Homeless veterans often require specialized services that take into account issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and service-related physical and mental health disabilities. MHSA provides peer support and permanent supportive housing to veterans experiencing homelessness, with a special focus on those veterans who have the highest barriers to housing and cannot otherwise access traditional housing programs. LEARN MORE >
Homeless Young Adults
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 fall into a gap in services available to children and older adults. Homeless young adults often have circumstances leading them to homelessness that are drastically different from those of their adult counterparts, and these circumstances require age-appropriate responses that address the unique needs of this subpopulation. MHSA’s advocacy is focused on creating low-threshold housing opportunities for young adults living in adult shelters or on the streets. LEARN MORE >
Homeless Older Adults
Homeless older adults face a number of unique challenges, particularly in terms of access to medical care and – for those who are disabled – long-term supportive services that will allow them to age with dignity. MHSA works with our members to advocate for housing and services to help older adults live in stable homes of their own. LEARN MORE >