Play the Housing Game to Win
How to acquire mental health housing for you or your loved one
Here is what someone can do:
1. Know your rights: according to the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS), the leader in effective housing, “Any family member or consumer has the right to conduct their own housing placement search.”
2. Educate yourself on the housing placement process so you can either work in partnership with the case manager or lead the search. CUCS is a phenomenal resource via their website www.cucs.org, housing specialists and vacancy lists. CUCS telephone: (212) 801-3333.
3. Learn how to put together the New York City Supportive Housing Referral Application (HRA 2000). It is available to download at www.cucs.org under Quick Links, click on HRA 2000. Fill it out with a case manager or social worker. Ask to see the final version before it goes out to check it for accuracy, completeness and legibility. If you are willing to have a roommate, it will increase your options.
4. Identify housing agency vacancies in your category on the CUCS vacancy list, inform yourself about them, build relationships with their liaisons, and fax or mail applications.
The Application Package Should Include:
a) HRA 2000 form filled out by the case manager, social worker or mental health professional
b) A current HRA determination letter indicating approval from the Human Resources Administration – Customized Assistance Services, Office of Health and Mental Health Services, (212) 495-2900. You will receive your determination letter from HRA after you have submitted the complete application to them.
c) Psychiatric Evaluation completed by the psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner, dated within the last 90 days
d) Recent, signed and dated PPD (TB test) indicating PPD Negative, or current Chest X-Ray results
e) Medical exam or physical done within the last three months
f) Psychosocial Summary completed by the case manager, social worker or mental health professional, dated within the last 90 days
g) Proof of Income: SSI or SSDI statement, etc.
h) Copy of Medicare or Medicaid card
i) Photo ID
j) A cover letter listing any special requirements (e.g., person in wheelchair) and information emphasizing why the individual would be a good fit for their housing program (i.e., resume shows some work history) to set your application apart from the pack
Go to www.cucs.org: under Quick Links, click on Vacancy Update then click Search Vacancies. Enter the borough and the model (see page 2 of the “Approval Letter” of the HRA 2000 for what you or your candidate qualifies for). Call immediately, as vacancies are scarce, and tend to be filled very quickly. You can work with a housing consultant at CUCS to learn how to read the vacancy list.
For vacancies at appropriate agencies, download addresses and information about them and their programs so you can have informed questions when you speak with a representative. Keep track of all this data: date, contact person, contact information and what was said to be fully prepared. Find out from the representative where the openings are and build a relationship, alerting them about your or your candidate’s service needs, and what you or your candidate has been approved for by HRA.
Note: intake coordinators at local programs sometimes may not provide correct information, and if they are new, may not be familiar with all the programs within their own agency.
The Solution: Either contact the CUCS Housing Resource Center to check the information you have received, or get in touch with a supervisor to be assured you understand correctly. Fax or mail the HRA 2000 application with a cover letter. Whether you or your candidate qualify for the Single Point of Access (SPOA) Housing Program (if you are not homeless, but have a mental illness) or are NY/NY eligible (for homeless or formerly homeless mentally ill individuals), CUCS can help you.
Follow up the next day and persistently after that to set up screening interviews to be accepted into the program. They want you to state preferences. It is better to be flexible to increase your odds for placement.
If an agency has approved you or your candidate for their program, usually a week or less after the first interview, call weekly about possible openings. You don’t have to accept the first offer if you do not want it. Housing may be in short supply, but you have a choice about what is acceptable for you or your candidate.
If you or your candidate get accepted for “transitional housing” with a roommate, within a year or so of doing well in the program, a new HRA 2000 application can be made to advance to more “independent housing.”
The process can seem overly complicated, but if you stay focused and patient, and seek the right help, you will succeed.