I. Introduction and National Information

Finding stable, safe and affordable housing can help you on your journey to recovery and prevent hospitalizations, homelessness and involvement in the criminal justice system.

A good housing match is one that meets four key needs:

  • Housing should be affordable
  • Housing should offer the right amount of independence.
  • Housing should meet your physical needs.
  • Housing should be discrimination-free.

Housing Options range from completely independent living to 24/7 care:

  • Supervised Group Housing – This type of housing provides the most support for its residents.
  • Partially Supervised Group Housing- Some support is provided for the residents, but staff isn’t there 24 hours a day.
  • Supportive Housing – Supportive housing provides very limited assistance.
  • Rental Housing – This type of housing is for someone who is completely independent or has suitable family support.
  • Home Ownership

Federal Resources for Housing Support:

HUD – The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a number of housing assistance and counseling programs (https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing):

  • Section 8- The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) is the federal government’s program for assisting low-income families, the elderly and the disabled.
  • Section 811- The Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities Program (Section 811) is a federal program dedicated to developing and subsidizing rental housing for very or extremely low income adults with disabilities, like a chronic mental illness
  • HUD also helps apartment renters by offering reduced rents (http://www.hud.gov/apps/section8/index.cfm) to low-income residents.

Section 8 Made Simple — Special Edition: Using the Housing Choice Voucher Program to End Chronic Homelessness (2016) offers step-by-step guidance on finding and securing housing through the HCV program (https://www.tacinc.org/resources/section-8-made-simple/), put together by Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. The guide includes information on many programs, including section 8.[1]

General Advice

“Adults needing significant housing supports may be best served by the public health and housing systems, which generally require Medicaid as criteria for eligibility. Those individuals needing significant supports who do not have Medicaid may be eligible for Medicaid, which is referred to as Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania.”[2] For information about how to apply for Medicaid, see “How to Get Government Services” (https://namimainlinepa.org/info-resources/how-to-get-services/). For section 8 housing and rentals in the private housing market, the disabled individual will need to have an acceptable credit score.

If a person is on a long waitlist for housing, while he/she is waiting it may be helpful to apply for Medicaid and/or establish an acceptable credit score. Also, you may want to explore the option of senior housing which is open to people with disabilities (although wait lists are often just as long for senior housing) (https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/mfh/hto/inventorysurvey). Additional helpful suggestions (particularly if you have a loved one living at home while waiting for housing) are available at https://namimainlinepa.org/suggestions-for-family-members-who-have-a-loved-one-living-at-home-while-on-a-long-waiting-list-for-housing/.

You should be aware of the “distinction between “housing” and “residential programs”. Residential programs usually involve more intensive levels of support and are usually for a limited amount of time”.[3] For descriptions of the different types of residential programs, see http://www.montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/8952 .

Additional helpful information about housing options for individuals with mental illness is available at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/housing.  Helpful information about home ownership and SSI benefits is available at https://namimainlinepa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Reasearching-Home-Ownership-and-SSI.pdf.

II. Resources for Finding Housing in Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, housing for low income individuals with mental illness is in very short supply and waiting lists are often a year or longer, so it is helpful to apply as early as possible.

Type of Service Recommendations for Finding and Accessing This Service
General Housing An explanation of the different kinds of housing resources available in PA can be found at http://www.shelterlistings.org/state/pennsylvania.html (scroll to the bottom).For a comprehensive database of all different kinds of housing throughout the state, go to http://www.pahousingsearch.com/

For listings of housing services available in cities across the state of Pennsylvania, go to http://www.shelterlistings.org/state/pennsylvania.html

For listings of emergency shelters and homeless shelters in Pennsylvania, go to http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/pennsylvania.html

For rental assistance, go to https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/rental_assistance

For information on low-income housing in each county, see:

For information about finding a housing counselor, please go to http://libertyresources.org/other-services/housing-counseling/

Housing specific to Individuals with Mental Illness and/or Substance Abuse For listings of housing and shelter in southeastern Pennsylvania, see:

Additional information should be available through your county departments and organizations:

Some programs may require a case manager referral. Your County help lines should be able to help with this. Licensed social workers who provide case management services are listed in the National Social Worker Finder, available at http://www.helpstartshere.org/common/Search/Default.asp.

Shelters for homeless individuals

[1] This quotation is excerpted from “Securing Stable Housing” by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). For the full document see http://namimainlinepa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Securing-Stable-Housing.pdf.

[2] Quoted from http://www.montcopa.org/2041/Adults; click on Roadmap to Recovery.

[3] Quoted from http://www.montcopa.org/2066/Housing-Supports

Last updated in February 2024.