Mental Illness, Homelessness and Disability

Having a disability is a factor that increases the risk of becoming homeless. In 2009, almost 38 percent of the homeless population had a disability, compared with about 16 percent of the total U.S. population. People with a serious mental illness are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. Additionally, the nature of mental illness prevents many from applying for assistance. Two serious and chronic mental illnesses—“schizophrenia” and “schizoaffective disorder”—together affect about 1 out of every 100 people. Individuals with those disorders face formidable challenges to gaining much needed support, such as adequate housing and treatment, and accessing public benefits.

Many homeless individuals with a serious mental illness are potentially eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, but the nature of their impairment poses obstacles to completing the SSI application process. In this article, we evaluate the Homeless with Schizophrenia Presumptive Disability (HSPD) pilot that tested whether providing support during the application process improves SSI application outcomes—such as increasing the allowance rate and shortening the time to award—in selected communities in California. Importantly, the HSPD pilot included a presumptive disability determination that provided up to 6 months of SSI payments before an award. Relative to the comparison groups chosen in the surrounding geographic areas, in an earlier period, and in the same locations, we found that the pilot intervention led to higher allowance rates at the initial adjudicative level, fewer requests for consultative examinations, and reduced time to award. …

The allowance rate for the entire test treatment group was 94 percent, ranging from 87 percent in Northern California to 97 percent in Los Angeles. See more detail here: