By Moryt Milo
For individuals living with mental illness, proper treatment and safe housing top the list. The right treatment can enable some individuals with mental illness to live independently. But finding affordable housing on a fixed income in the Bay Area is challenging.
The county is trying to change that for low-income individuals and those with mental illness. Last April, the Independent Living Empowerment Project (ILEP) received about $945,000 to help launch a program that promotes quality independent living through stable housing. The program uses a specific quality of standards template that was originally developed by the San Diego-based nonprofit Independent Living Association (ILA).
ILEP is actively recruiting operators in Santa Clara County who want to provide shared housing to adults on a fixed income like SSI or SSDI. Renters must be stable and able to manage all their daily needs. If tenants have case managers, social workers, doctors, or therapists, it is their responsibility to maintain those relationships. These homes do not provide supportive services— medication management, transportation, medical appointment management, or other direct services for those with mental illness.
The home operators within the ILEP group are required to meet eight high-quality standards that include a clean, safe, well-maintained home and property with specific amenities for all tenants. For example, all beds must have a frame, mattress, and box spring. Beds cannot be a mattress on the floor or bunk beds.
“This is for the respect of the tenants. We don’t want them to feel like they are in a facility or in a science camp,” ILA program manager Hana Brett said. “This is a family living shared environment.”
The homes must provide tenants with a closet and dresser space in a shared room. The house must have a fully equipped kitchen. There needs to be a communal dining area, adequate heating, and electricity. The home environment must respect the privacy of the tenants.
Although these homes are unlicensed, the operators participating in the independent living program go through an education and training program so they understand the requirements needed to meet the standards. All ILEP homes are annually inspected and peer reviewed.
The program, which is only a year old, is eager to add qualifying properties to its Santa Clara County list. Those searching for a home, can click here to navigate by city, preferred population, and types of rooms. The properties list their rent range and other specifics. Some homes offer meals.
The homes do not permit alcohol or drugs on the property. Smoking is not permitted inside the home, but may have a designated area outside the home.
Rhonda Brown, founder of ILA, said “This is the lowest barrier to housing. People can walk in that same day. It is highly useful for getting folks off the streets.”
She added that rent is month to month which makes the living situation highly flexible and is often used as transitional housing.
One of the ILA members, Matt Jacobsen, has 11 independent living homes in Santa Clara County. He is an advocate of the program. He said being part of the association has provided must needed support.
“Working with ILA has helped us with our operator/tenant experience and it creates a team atmosphere,” he said. The tenants see we are working to create a quality home. “
For more information about housing options, click here. For information about becoming an operator, click here. NAMI-Santa Clara County also can provide information about housing. Reach out to the Helpline at 408-453-0400 ext.1.