Some disabled people in the US are eligible for financial assistance with housing, and for housing preference programs through Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, such as the Section 8 grant program. Section 8 is especially flexible, because the monthly grant can be used to reduce the cost of housing found on the open market, not just in a housing project or other government-owned building. Some charitable organizations and churches also manage low-income housing projects or voucher programs, and may have preferential treatment for people with disabilities.
Subsidized housing ranges from adult foster homes with full-time staff on up to private apartments with no support on site. The wait for housing can be long (three years or more for Section 8 vouchers), so it’s important to apply before there’s a pressing need. This may mean applying while a teenager is still in high school.
Some subsidized housing is substandard, especially in urban areas where the supply of low-cost units is tight. You’ll need to pay special attention to security concerns, such as locking doors and windows, having a personal telephone in case of emergencies, and the safety of the surrounding neighborhood for a person who may be particularly vulnerable to crime. Some older housing projects and residential hotels are also very dirty, and may not have fully functional plumbing, lighting, and heating. Landlords can be made responsible for bringing units up to code, but they may not respond until the tenant’s family or a social services agency gets involved.
Group homes that stress independent living, including self-managed group homes or co-ops, are also an option. Some of these programs may be covered by long-term care insurance, health insurance, funds placed in trust, or monthly payments made by you or your adult child. Your local NAMI chapter may have information about special housing options for adults with mental illness, or you can check in with a public or private social services agency. A number of innovative housing options are starting to spring up, including subsidized apartment buildings where each tenant has a maximum of personal autonomy despite having on-site medical management staff, therapy groups, AA and NA meetings, and the like.
Young adults with severe symptoms may need services to maintain themselves in a regular apartment or home, rather than a special housing arrangement. These are usually less expensive to boot, and may be available through government or private social services. Options include housekeeping assistance, self-care help, medication and case management, and special transportation arrangements to help the person handle shopping, medical appointments, and recreation needs.
There is a growing trend toward helping disabled adults purchase their own homes. Sometimes grants are available for down payment assistance, along with special loan programs, trust arrangements, and home buying and home ownership training.
In Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, your local housing authority or council housing office can help you get on the waiting list, and inform you of any preference programs for the disabled and their careers that might move you up the queue faster. Charitable agencies and churches may also have low-income housing programs.