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efficiency apartment required 66% of the SSI check, and renting a one-bedroom
required 80%. In 9% of counties, fair-market rent for a one-bedroom apartment
exceeded the entire SSI benefit. In the intervening years since the study was con-
ducted, the purchasing power of SSI recipients seeking housing in the open market
likely has eroded further, as rents almost certainly have risen much faster than ben-
efits. And even if modestly augmented by food stamps and Medicaid, SSI benefit
levels simply will not support the configurations of housing and support services
desired by impaired consumers and related to residential stability.
Federal SSI benefits (sometimes supplemented meagerly by a state)
amounted in 1999 to $500 per month for an individual living alone and $751 for a
couple living together. Even these small amounts are princely sums by compari-
son to the benefit levels of GA programs. GA is a generic name for state and local
programs that provide ongoing or time-limited assistance to low-income persons
who do not qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or
or who are awaiting an eligibility decision by these or other income mainte-
nance programs. Many states do not have GA programs at all, and in others, GA is
operated only in some local jurisdictions; eligibility rules and benefits levels vary
dramatically from state to state. The one thing they share, uniformly, is low bene-
fit levels (Greenberg & Baumohl, 1996).
In the last 10 years, GA benefits in
many states have declined, eligibility restrictions have been added, some jurisdic-
tions within states have ceased benefits, and the state of Michigan abandoned its
GA program altogether--and 20,000 former recipients were subsequently evicted
(Halter, 1996, p. 108; Urban Institute, 1996).
If benefits continue to be meager in relationship to housing costs, selected pre-
vention strategies to provide housing subsidies to all with worst-case housing
needs would be of critical value to people with impairments that prevent work. In
the case of individuals with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorder,
services under consumer control, combined with housing subsidies and money
management services, would seem to be a useful package.
Discharge Planning
The Interagency Council on the Homeless (1994) recommended two addi-
tional strategies to prevent homelessness about which we are more skeptical:
The Prevention of Homelessness Revisited
This does not mean that GA recipients are work-ready and shirking. Many GA recipients suffer
from acute and chronic problems that, although making them realistically unemployable, do not meet
the stringent Social Security standard of disability (Halter, 1996). Moreover, some impairments, nota-
bly substance abuse (since January 1997), do not qualify as the basis for a Social Security disability
claim (Greenberg & Baumohl, 1996; Hunt and Baumohl, in press).
In 1992, the maximum GA cash benefit for a single adult (the typical recipient), reported by
states with uniform statewide programs, ranged from lows of $27 per month in South Carolina and $80
per month in Missouri to highs of $384 per month in Massachusetts and $407 per month in Hawai'i
(Burke, 1995, p. 78).