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NEW INITIATIVES ANNOUNCED AT WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE TO PROVIDE SAFE, SECURE HOUSING FOR AMERICANS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
WASHINGTON - At the first ever White House Conference on Mental Health, the Clinton-Gore Administration today announced two new initiatives to increase housing opportunities for Americans with mental illness.
Tipper Gore, the President's Mental Health Policy Advisor and a well-known advocate for people with mental illness, chaired the White House Conference on Mental Health, where the initiatives were discussed today.
One initiative will help create more Safe Havens where homeless people with mental illness can stay and get food, clothing and showers. An estimated 25 to 33 percent of the roughly 600,000 Americans who are homeless on any given night suffer from severe mental illness.
The second initiative is a series of three televised awareness and training sessions led by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, designed to help staff from HUD and groups that get HUD funding to fight housing discrimination against people with mental illness.
"A safe, secure, and healthy home is important to the well-being of everyone in our nation," Cuomo said. "These initiatives will open our eyes to housing discrimination against people with mental illness and open the door to equal rights in housing for these Americans."
The Clinton-Gore Administration's Fiscal Year 2000 budget proposes increased spending on HUD programs to help Americans with mental illness, including: 100,000 new housing vouchers to provide safe, decent housing for people in need; expansion of tenant-based voucher allocations through the Section 811 program to give people with disabilities a broader choice in where they live; $7 million more for the Office of Fair Housing (to $47 million) to better respond to cases of housing discrimination, including those involving mental health disabilities; and an increase from $975 million to $1.02 billion for Continuum of Care homeless assistance, which provides housing and services to homeless people, including many with mental illness.
Here are details on each initiative announced today:
HUD, together with the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide in-depth training for non-profit organizations, local government officials and other interested members of the community on how to develop and operate more Safe Havens.
Safe Havens serve as refuges for homeless people with severe mental illness who have been unable to access or participate in traditional housing or supportive services. The Safe Havens provide for basic needs such as food, showers, clothing, and shelter. They will give homeless people a chance to adjust to life off the streets and to transition to permanent housing. Started by HUD in 1994, there are now 104 Safe Havens.
A new guidebook put together by HUD and HHS called In From the Cold: A Tool Kit for Creating Safe Havens for Homeless People on the Street will serve as the textbook for the training. The guidebook, unveiled for the first time at the conference, contains valuable advice and specific ideas on creating and operating Safe Havens to assist homeless people who are mentally ill.
AWARENESS AND TRAINING SEMINARS
HUD will conduct a series of three televised national awareness and training sessions led by Cuomo to reduce the stigma and discrimination in housing against people with mental illness. The sessions will be broadcast via satellite to HUD's 81 offices around the country for HUD employees, employees of thousands of organizations that receive HUD funding, and others.
Often, people with mental illness are denied housing outright by landlords and because of their disability are harassed by neighbors so much that they decide to move. In Fiscal Year 1998, 565 complaints alleging discrimination based on mental disability were filed with HUD and its state and local government partners. An unknown number of complaints are also filed with private fair housing groups, which are not required to report their statistics to HUD.
The first session will explore how people with mental illness experience discrimination in housing. The remaining two sessions will teach participants how the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws can help end that discrimination.
HUD will link the themes of its two broadcasts so that those being trained about Safe Havens will also become more aware of the needs of people with mental illness and receive information on Fair Housing and other discrimination issues.
In addition, HUD has a number of other initiatives designed to help people with mental illness remain in their homes.
Among the most prominent is the Continuum of Care program, which uses a comprehensive approach to provide emergency, transitional and permanent housing and services to help homeless people become self sufficient. Since it was launched by the Clinton-Gore Administration in 1994, the Continuum of Care has more than doubled the funding devoted each year toward solving homelessness to approximately $900 million annually. Homelessness assistance, much of which helps those with mental illness, is a significant portion of the over $1.1 billion HUD spends to meet the housing needs of people with special needs in its proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
HUD also operates additional housing programs to help people with mental illness and disabilities, including: Section 8 Rental Assistance for People with Disabilities, which has $88.5 million in available funds for about 10,000 Section 8 housing vouchers; the Mainstream Program, which is a $48.5 million, five-year program to allocate 1,600 vouchers for people with disabilities; the Designated Public Housing program, which is a $20 million, one-year program to meet the housing needs of people with disabilities; and Rental Assistance for Applicants to Private Assisted Housing, which is a $20 million program for 4,200 vouchers to provide rental housing to people with disabilities who do not receive assistance because owners of private, assisted Section 202, 221(d)(3), and 236 housing establish selection preferences for elders.
Another program overseen by HUD to assist mentally ill and disabled people is Service Coordinators in Multi-Family Housing, which will allocate $5 million to allow multi-family housing owners to provide elderly and disabled residents with support services allowing them to live independently in their own apartments.
HUD has also funded the construction of housing in 544 developments under the Section 811 program to help people with chronic mental illness live in community settings.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009