New Report Shows Challenges Facing People With Serious Mental Illness Living on SSI

JUN. 12, 2015

By Andrew Sperling

Priced Out in the United States
  [+] Expand. Photo from the Technical Assistance Collaborative. 

Earlier this week, the Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force released an important report showing the huge difficulties faced by people with disabilities including mental illness in getting affordable rental housing. The report, Priced Out in 2014, compares Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to fair market rents in housing markets across the country. A fairly obvious point made for anyone who relies on SSI for basic needs or has family members that do–nowhere in America are SSI benefits enough to rent your own apartment. 

Along with the report, they released a fact sheet with these key findings: 

  • The average annual income of a single individual receiving SSI payments was $8,995 — equal to only 20.1% of the national median income for a one-person household and about 23% below the 2014 federal poverty level.
  • The national average rent for a modest one-bedroom rental unit was $780, equal to 104% of the national average monthly income of a one-person SSI household. This finding confirms that, in 2014, it was virtually impossible for a single adult receiving SSI to obtain decent and safe housing in the community without some type of rental assistance.
  • The national average rent for a studio/efficiency unit in 2014 was $674, equal to 90% of monthly SSI. In eight states and in the District of Columbia, areas with the highest housing costs in the nation, the average studio/efficiency rent exceeded 100% of the income of an SSI recipient.
  • In 17 states and the District of Columbia, statewide average one-bedroom rents were higher than monthly SSI payments, including: Hawaii (173%), District of Columbia (171%), Maryland (146%), New Jersey (144%), New York (133%), Virginia (126%), Delaware (123%), California (121%), Massachusetts (121%), New Hampshire (113%), Connecticut (113%), Florida (111%), Illinois (111%), Vermont (107%), Colorado (106%), Nevada (105%), Washington (104%), and Rhode Island (103%).
  • In four states — Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and New Jersey — and the District of Columbia, one-bedroom rents exceeded 100% of SSI in every single housing market area. Over 156,000 people with disabilities receiving SSI lived in these areas in 2014.
  • In 162 housing market areas across 33 states, one-bedroom rents exceeded 100% of monthly SSI. Rents for modest rental units in 15 of these areas exceeded 150% of SSI.

While this is not news, the report can be used as an advocacy tool for NAMI members in asking their affordable housing system to support rental housing—especially Section 8—to non-elderly people with disabilities.

Visit the Technical Assitance Collaborative's website to learn more about the key findings and what we can do about this crisis.


JAN, 07, 2017 04:00:06 PM
I am all too familiar with this issue as well. My heart goes out to all of you who are experiencing this unfortunate reality of our Mental "Illness/Health" whatever the pc version is today. Living with your parents as an adult is never fun and definitely can worsen your recovery! I'm 41 and living with my mother who is definitely worsening my issues even though I know she is trying her best to help.

PLEASE help us find housing! I'm grateful for all the many other benefits we're provided!! However, how are we to continue to grow if we are unable to have our most basic needs met ? Housing IS part of those needs!

DEC, 20, 2016 04:32:11 AM
I understand where all of you are coming from.
Right now I am living on $400 in SSDI and I am relying on my retired parents who pay for my apartment and draining them dry.

The guilt and fear I feel every day on top of my severe depression and PTSD is enormous.

They are elderly and I am a burden.

I am so afraid of being homeless, and when they pass, taking my life will be the only option.

I can not work, and I would never make it on the street, which us where I will be.

The system is impossible to navigate with my disability, and I am afraid to even open my mail to see all the rejection and bills.

It is humiliating at my age to not work and be relying on my parents, I hate myself so much.

The shame and guilt I feel is tremendous and there is no solution to this problem,

I see homeless men and women, unmediated and obliviously mentally ill and it makes my heart break in my chest.

They have been thrown away like garbage, and I see myself reflected in each and every one of their faces- I am just like them, I could BE them.

I don't know why I was born or exist- this is like being on life support, not living.

DEC, 02, 2016 04:44:18 PM
Deborah Tyler
My benefits are $752 a month. Far below min wage! God I wish I could get and keep even a min wage job, I would in a heartbeat. I have a severe type of Narcolepsy with Cataplexy. Plus treatment resistant depression, anxiety disorder, severe asthma and IBS. I wouldn't hire me. I worked from age 16 to 31 when I just couldn't get through even an hour, sometimes could't get to my car even. I have nothing left. Just a daily battle not just with all my medical and mental conditions but with people who resent me for not being able to do it all on my own and trying to figure out how I am going to keep from being homeless. Far from the successful life I had planned for myself. I don't live life at all, just barely exist. Inside this is not who I am. Not who I wish to be! Now I just wish for some breathing room. Things need to change!

NOV, 18, 2016 03:21:34 PM
At first, I was empathetic, but folks also need to keep in mind ssi only replaces the bare minimum I.e. hours worked at minimum wage. If minimum wage isn't liveable.... Maybe ssi should go up with respect to minimum wage. It's not only people on disability who are struggling to make ends meet.

I too have a severe mental illness and am choosing against going for ssi at this time. My minimum wage job has been an excellent fit. I understand not everyone has access to that kind of fit. It's been a great stepping stone to a full time job, hopefully eventually.

NOV, 18, 2016 06:32:01 AM
Interesting to note that ssi is basically not above minimum wage. Was considering going for ssi due late onset schizophrenia, but it wouldn't be any easier despite all the struggles I have had with working as it is now. I'm not trying to be lazy, but it's such a St uggle to hold it together to work some days.

SEP, 13, 2016 03:06:08 PM
Robert Appel
I am disabled and on SSI in Bellingham, WA, and can't afford to live. The Section 8 list for HUD Housing has been closed for years so I can't even apply for it. I am Bipolar with ADHD, PTSD, and COPD. Thoughts of suicide go through my mind daily. I can't find any help anywhere. Please let me know what I should do.

JAN, 04, 2016 02:44:09 PM
Deborah Tyler
MARC BROWN- Exactly what is your problem? I have chronic TRDD, Anxiety disorder and severe Narcolepsy with Cataplexy. Try walking in those shoes! FYI, walking with cataplexy, not so easy my friend.

DEC, 21, 2015 07:36:59 PM
"Nowhere in America are SSI benefits enough to rent your own apartment."

This is a bald-faced lie. Moreover, it is so obvious a lie that repeating it seriously undermines our credibility. What the study found was that the average statewide rental cost for a one-bedroom apartment exceeded the standard SSI benefit. But that average is derived from the monthly rental of several thousands of one-bedroom apartments, ranging from run-down slums to obnoxiously overpriced "luxury" units. So at most, you could claim that nowhere in America is it possible for someone on SSI to rent their own more-expensive-than-average one-bedroom apartment (without outside help like section 8). Not as pithy, not as likely to terrify/infuriate the masses, but at least it isn't a lie.

*As an example, I pay $450 a month for a two bedroom apartment with hardwood floors, new (when I moved in) appliances, and a fireplace, in a pretty decent neighborhood. There are affordable units out there.

DEC, 02, 2015 06:17:40 PM
Marc Brown
Its people like deborah that make me sick. trust me deborah - we don't like knowing that we have limitations. walk one day or week in a bipolars shoes.

JUL, 08, 2015 03:14:15 AM
M.K. Brookshier
I had to stop working and go on SSDI (disibility) for mental illness when I was 45. The goal then was to get me back to work. Unfortunately, there is no parity between "mental" health and "physical" health coverage in this country so, even though I have Medicare, I pay a monthly premium and 50% of related mental health treatment. I will never be able to afford the treatment I need to become a productive worker again. This past year the government gave a cost of living raise of around $20/mo, but then did not raise the poverty level enough to cover it. I lost 1/12 of my income, (that's an entire month's income if you are keeping track), because of this "raise". It put me over the limit for other assistance by $3, and I lost benefits of over $100/month. Instead of a $20/month raise I netted a loss of nearly $100/month. I live in a rotten area and was barely paying my bills before this happened... Funny how I read so much trash about people on assistance driving Mercedes. I can't even get food stamps.

JUL, 04, 2015 01:34:46 PM
Deborah Tyler
This article leaves out that for most rental applications to be accepted requires income to be certain percentage over rent amount and pass a credit check. Most people living on SS might as well forget it cause most cant meet either criteria. And now most employers want credit checks, how many low income people let alone low income disabled can pass? Wonder why there are so many homeless!

JUL, 04, 2015 12:02:35 PM
Deborah Tyler
I am really sick of all the comments I read on various websites about people on SS just wanting handouts, a free ride, should just ***** it up, get a job like everyone else etc. Why on earth would anyone willingly live like this?? I'd like to see any of them try and get thru 1 day in my shoes!!! I have had to rely on my Mother also and while I have had a place to live its been at a high emotional cost for not only me but my 2 kids, both who were born in relationships, 1st I was married to her father. The 2nd a long term relationship. My kids r 7yrs apart. Not like I just had kids when I couldn't afford them!! I worked till I absolutely couldn't from 17 to 33. My ex husband was killed at 48yr. All he put in SS gov keeps since we were divorced after 6yrs, not the req 10 for me to get his benefits after23yrs as an electrician. My daughter was 24, she didn't get 1 red cent either. All my dreams gone!
I have written my congress reps and asked them how they would live on what I have to. So far just get the standard "Thank you for contacting me" letter. BS!!!!

JUL, 03, 2015 11:49:12 AM
There definitely needs to be reform (long overdue). There are not enough subsidy certificates due to the fact that people holding rent subsidy certificates are allowed to keep them for unlimited years. There are no time limits, or requirements for "able-bodied" people to seek employment. Priority needs to be focused on the elderly, our Veteran's, disabled citizen's.

JUN, 29, 2015 01:45:07 PM
Sarah Nash
I didn't read through all of your reports, but this is a HUGE issue in the Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, Ia area. The low income bottom for our area with one person is $44,500. Section 8 vouchers are very hard to come by and then most landlords or corporate landlords won't accept those vouchers.

Question? Do you know what is or has been done regarding divorced persons drawing SSD on their former husband's income. Many stayed home with their children and because of a mental illness were left behind by their husbands.

JUN, 29, 2015 08:20:33 AM
Debbie B
My son moved back in with me when his subsidy ran out from a local mental health assistance group. It was either that or move to an unsafe area of town 10 miles further away from my house than he already was. I picked him up several days a week and brought him to my house (no car can be had in this world that is less than $2000 and still runs) to do laundry, took hin grocery shopping etc that extra 10 miles would have been brutal for me because I work 30 miles away in the opposite direction. so, he pays his share of the bills at my house so he can keep his SSI and moved back in with me.

JUN, 28, 2015 10:41:54 AM
carol dreszer
My son is 26, receives $667. from SSI and SSDI. His rent is $600. Month. He has a 1 year lease that started in April. He was hospitalized a week ago and most likely will not be out in time to pay his rent. Also if he is hospitalized over a month he will lose that months benefits. I don't know what to do for him. I have paid thousands trying to help him and am no longer in a position to provide help. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

JUN, 27, 2015 01:04:57 PM
My daughter suffered from bipolar disorder with psychosis, an eating disorder and substance abuse. Her father & I provided as much support as possible. She wanted to live on her own, and qualified for public housing after a 3 year wait. Unfortunately she died of a drug overdose in that housing project within a year. It certainly wasn't an ideal situation, but it was all she could afford.

JUN, 25, 2015 12:45:08 PM
A lot of good comments rooted in reality.
It's not just the fact that there is not enough money to support yourself on, but the years of red tape and denials and then appeals that people have to go through just to get a little aid is astounding. Like others have stated, if it wasn't for some who are blessed enough to have family and friends to help, people just fall through the cracks or get recycled in and out of state mental hospitals. This red tape process for people with acute needs has to be streamlined immediately. I know that the state that I live in is rated at the top for government services to people. This is because the state stone walls everyone for years with denials and appeals in hoping that you will just give up. These are dysfunctional agencies that the state receives federal funds for. How can we make states more accountable not only for their poor and mentally ill, but in how the federal money is being used. Our state basically has a closed government and you don't know about what's going on unless it affects your need. Politicians talk at you, but not to you. We need some new laws with some teeth in them for acute care and transparancy in state government proceedings. If agriculture and livestock can have lobbyists working for them? Then so can human beings that need acute care.

JUN, 25, 2015 10:39:10 AM
I have a mental illness and am on SSDI. I worked 36 jobs till I could work no longer. I cannot afford housing. I am 40 and thank god, live with my folks, but they resent me. Section 8 has been closed for years where I live, so I can't even be on that long list. I don't know where I'd be without my parents and they are getting older. I'm scared. I just want a studio apartment for me and my emotional support dog. I want my independence. I can't live like this. At least I have them to turn to. But they make me pay in other ways.

JUN, 25, 2015 09:54:48 AM
Lee Rase
Living on SSI CAN BE CHALLENGING AT BEST. I have to choose between food and rent, or just do without. It's like I'm being punished for having a mental illness. This needs to stop..Now

JUN, 25, 2015 04:50:45 AM
I've said for years that while I am grateful for disability money, it only allows me to have one nostril above the water to survive. I've had to rely on others to get by for years. I would not have a place to live or a car to drive or gas to put in it if it wasn't for my brother helping me and sacrificing his own financial needs to help me.

JUN, 25, 2015 02:00:16 AM
Kurt A. Olsson
I've been on SSD since 1996 and even then I made too much for assisted living help yet didn't make enough to rent a place. That's almost 20 years today, this needs to change!

JUN, 25, 2015 12:35:52 AM
F. Hanauer
I receive a little over $500 a month in ssd/ssi benefits. The amount is reduced because I live with relatives. Another relative of mine receives $105 due to the fact that her husband receives the maximum SSD benefit. I cannot afford to live on my own because the rent and other expenses are far too high. I don't know what data the SSA is using to determine maximum SSI benefit amounts, but it is severely flawed. Many of us have expenses that we can't afford. I hope that changes will be made and monthly benefits will increase.

JUN, 25, 2015 12:23:02 AM
My nephew has just been declared incompetent after living in his own apt. for about 10 years and took himself off his meds for the past six monts, gets ssi and social security, about $ His Mom, my sister, now has him living with her husband who is was sent home from hospital and is under care of Hospice. Their daughter moved in about 1 1/2 years ago with many blood and liver problems. My question is how can my sister find ass't living facility to take my nephew when his last social worker said there were no vacancies in the three counties near us in Florida. I worry about all of them, especially my sister because I think she is near to having a breakdown. The hardest one to cope with is my nephew, up most of the night and acting out...any answers...anyone???

JUN, 25, 2015 12:20:22 AM
F. Hanauer
I receive a little over $500 a month in ssd/ssi benefits. The amount is reduced because I live with relatives. Another relative of mine receives $105 due to the fact that her husband receives the maximum SSD benefit. I cannot afford to live on my own because the rent and other expenses are far too high. I don't know what data the SSA is using to determine maximum SSI benefit amounts, but it is severely flawed. Many of us have expenses that we can't afford. I hope that changes will be made and monthly benefits will increase.

JUN, 24, 2015 10:55:37 PM
Its very hard to live on ss especially being ill n having a child w/disabilities then bills are piling up n its just horrible, they just really need to raise the money because the cost of living is just outrageous. ..medications are outrageous, food,clothing cost,homes,cars just basically everything.

JUN, 24, 2015 10:51:49 PM
Darci Jones
I am a parent of an adult daughter living with severe mental illness and a clinician who spent 20 years helping individuals with housing problems. There are times when I have paid my daughter's rent or helped her find a place to live. But without daily case management help, she forgets to take meds and eventually how to get home. The HUD housing requirements are confusing and tenants are sometimes harassed by managers. Transitional housing for both singles and families could help. More detox and long term residential programs could help. It's just too much to ask of a person who is already struggling to jump through hoops and manage required paperwork needed for HUD housing.

JUN, 24, 2015 08:13:30 PM
As a social worker who also has a mental illness, I worked with people on SSI. If those who decide the SSI amount are treat us as people with a biological brain disorder, like someone with a cardiac patient who can't work, then the question is how can we work on recovery when we are fighting for survival while living in flop houses and dangerous housing situations? I'm lucky; I have had some periods when I could work so I get SSDI. Still not enough to pay for everything, but still better than those with SSI. My heart ached as a case manager with young adults diagnosed with SMI and I couldn't place them in safe housing where they would have enough extra to live on.

JUN, 24, 2015 07:46:16 PM
Michele Hendricks
Today, I went to the dump five times. I was throwing away the belongings of a mentally ill woman who is becoming homeless today. Even though she has been looking for a new home for some time, she has not been successful in finding one. This was one of the saddest days of my life.

JUN, 23, 2015 12:51:47 PM
Bernice Morgan
I guess I am one of the lucky ones. I have struggled with Bi-Polar disorder, PTSD, panic and anxiety disorders and work a full-time job. I did have to apply for SSDI in 2008, was approved and received my entire SSDI check in addition to my wages. No one informed me about this. I came across an article from someone in a very similar situation - called TWP (Transitional Work Program). I believe it's different for SSI.

JUN, 16, 2015 05:22:50 PM
Brenda Leake
It is shameful the treatment mentally challenged adults receive in our beloved USA.

JUN, 16, 2015 05:41:37 AM
Wow!! I am not alone!! Finally...others can understand what I am going through!! I have been on Sec 8 wait list for almost 9 yrs. I have exhausted all living situations with family and friends!! Very discouraging, and to have to deal with physical and mental issues, meds, finances, etc. Tired of people criticizing me for "NOT BEING NORMAL"!! Always asking..."what's wrong with you?, what's YOUR PROBLEM? Hope I can find help and support here!!

JUN, 15, 2015 01:04:18 PM
Mary Kornele
Living on SSI in ND. To espensivesive in CA. Looking for work here now. I have worked as a Peer Support Specialist. Talented people are left behind when it comes to gettinging ahead because we are mentally ill. Having a place that is stable to live in a healthy environment is hard. Roommates, boyfriends, and even family can make a difference for good or bad, however I should be able to support myself with help from my community. Most days are okay and I want a chance to advocate myself and others struggling with the same issues. I think more opportunities are part of the answer. Until then I just keep looking for the right job for me.

JUN, 14, 2015 10:57:19 PM
amy lyne
Its like feudalism all over again.

I will never understand why it takes a couple working 30 years to pay for home that 5 men build in 3 weeks using mostly cheap concrete 2x4s , flake-board and tar paper.

JUN, 14, 2015 03:04:43 PM
Yaakov Watkins
It is also worth noting that minimum standards for sizes and amenities of apartments keep rising. That means that prices will continue to go up.

JUN, 14, 2015 01:53:06 PM
april pearson
im havin a hard time living in hud housing signing releases for my mntl hlth for supportive housing program and being stereo typed and judged my staff

JUN, 14, 2015 02:44:20 AM
Sharon cusumano
I am on ssd i receive 792.50 a month i currently pay 510.00 a month i am trying to get help to get my rent subsidy by section 8 I have had to jump through numerous hoops for two and a half years and i am still waiting for my interview. Its not only frustrating but i barley make it i live month to month with no help so i know what people go through it so hard .some times i just want to give up.

JUN, 13, 2015 07:44:18 PM
Kaarina Nash
I have mental health issues, and I was on SSI for years lost it because of my ex, and have just now found out that I will be getting it back, and it wont be enough for me to live on my own, so I end up living with a roommate or with so called relatives that abuse me mentally, or on the street, all because I have mentally health issues that keep me from being able to work. This is not how I want it, but it is how it is. People like me do not choose this life, but it is the life we have, and we just want to be able to survive just like the rest of the world does. This needs to be corrected. Social security and SSI should not be set for anyless then $1000 amonth in order for everyone that truely needs it to be able to survive.

JUN, 13, 2015 04:31:11 PM
David williams
I work in mental health as a C.P.S and am interested in this newsletter.

JUN, 13, 2015 03:56:36 PM
Penny Ryan
i live on 700 a month i have had 3 back surgerys 2 hand surgerys 3 tumors 2 were in my female organs and 1 in my head thank god they turned out to be non cancerous i have been involed with cmh for over 30 years and for now i am ok,but if i need them i no where to go ,as long as they stay funded ,now governor sydner has cut food stamps so i am suppose to servive on 63 dollars a month for food so that gives on
me a grand total of 763 to live on i do not understand how this could happen and im trying every day to stay afloat my rent is 400 for a room in someone else home i have an old car but my insurance is 180 dllars i have my own bathroom so with that all my personal needs including laundry plus gas at 3oo dollars a gallon to get to the doctors plus my co pays and by the way i worked till i became disabled so i did put in i get part ssi and part ssd so tell me why i have to live this way !! then u wonder why people r depressed stealing and robbing committing suicide it doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure it out !! and yes u r able to use this letter if it will help thank u!!

JUN, 13, 2015 12:46:08 PM
Nelson C
If it weren't for the LORD's grace and mercy,,,don't know where I would be right now. Thank GOD for my wife who's been trying to cover most of the household's costs and tending our 9 year old son, for the help I can muster up has been very minimal.

JUN, 13, 2015 04:27:47 AM
Barbara Ann Jordan
how do I get state ssi ?

JUN, 12, 2015 11:52:47 PM
Margaret Lee
I live in New Jersey and I only get $639 because my ex husband is a disabled vet and is supposed to pay me $127 a month. Ssi said it's up to me to get it from him. How am I supposed to so this when I don't know where he is. Veteran admin. said they can't make him pay. What can I do?

JUN, 12, 2015 10:42:15 PM
angie falasca-taylor
With the amount a person receives in SSI benefits is not enough to pay rent, utility bills and buy groceries even with the little bit one gets in food stamps.

JUN, 12, 2015 06:21:49 PM
Melinda Davis
Three sources of limited income any American poor cannot survive on are welfare, social security, and minimum wage. Are a $700 rent is paid., anyone who cannot afford to maintain month to month basis. Receiving government benefits means poverty the modern day slavery.

JUN, 12, 2015 06:16:46 PM
Trinidad A. Lazatin III
It's even hard to have a room for rent here in California with that amount of money in hand and low income housing has a long list and could take years just to get into the system. Nobody really wants to live in a board and care if what we really need is to become independent and get back on our own two feet...

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