National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Legislation to Address Chronic Homelessness & Mental Illness Introduced

April 20, 2005

As NAMI advocates know first-hand, people with severe mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders are disproportionately represented in the chronic homeless population. Numerous studies have demonstrated that permanent supportive housing is the most effective intervention to break the costly and destructive cycle inherent in chronic homelessness between the streets, shelters, emergency rooms and jails.

Click here for more information on this research.

This past week, a bipartisan coalition of Senators and House members introduced legislation to further the cause of ending chronic homelessness over the next decade. This legislation -- (S 709/HR 1471) known as the Services for Ending Long-Term Homelessness Act (SELHA) -- authorizes funding for a federal initiative to finance services in permanent supportive housing targeted to individuals exiting chronic homelessness.

The legislation is designed to compliment permanent supportive housing developed in states and localities across the country with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These programs include permanent housing under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Shelter Plus Care and SHP) and President Bush's "Samaritan Initiative." Local communities often struggle to access these resources because of strenuous matching requirements for services directly linked to housing. The SELHA legislation would authorize funding for the critical services link in permanent supportive housing.

Action Requested

Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor S 709/HR 1471. Attached is a sample letter. When contacting members of Congress, remind them that:

  • People with severe mental illness and co-occurring disorders are disproportionately represented in the chronic homeless population (those who stay homeless for a year or more),
  • Permanent supportive housing works to end chronic homelessness by providing accessible, coordinated, and flexible services that lead to recovery and reintegration into community life.
  • Funding for services in permanent housing is a critical link in supportive housing and is often the most difficult element for non-profit developers to pull together, and

SELHA is critically important to achieving the goal of ending chronic homelessness -- a goal supported by the President, as well as governors and mayors across the country.

Enter your zip code below to access a sample letter on this issue and a list of your representatives to contact now.  If you do not see the box for entering the zip code, click here.