Mental Health Advocates Must Be Housing Advocates

Andrew Sperling, director of legislative and policy advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Opportunity Starts at Home Releases New Podcast with NAMI’s Andrew Sperling on the role of Mental Health Advocates

On October 10, 2018, the Opportunity Starts at Home multi-sector affordable housing campaign released its seventh podcast episode highlighting the intersections between affordable housing and mental health. The episode features Andrew Sperling, director of legislative and policy advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

  • NAMI is the nation’s leading voice on mental health.
  • Mr. Sperling discusses the history of housing and mental illness, the current housing barriers facing those with mental health conditions, the necessity of stable housing for recovery, NAMI’s commitment to housing affordability, and why NAMI joined the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign Steering Committee.

Andrew explains NAMI’s commitment to housing affordability issues, the history of housing and mental illness, the current housing barriers facing those with a mental health condition, and the necessity of stable housing for recovery.

“Without access to decent, safe, affordable housing, all the aspirations we have for recovery just collapse,” explains Sperling. “For the population I represent, no social determinant of health drives more bad health outcomes than unstable housing.”

Helping people with mental illness secure stable housing is a priority for NAMI. For someone with a mental health condition, the basic necessity of a stable home can be hard to come by. The lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most powerful barriers to recovery. When this basic need isn’t met, people cycle in and out of homelessness, jails, shelters and hospitals. Having a safe, appropriate place to live can provide stability to allow you to achieve your goals.

According to the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC)’s Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities report, almost 100,000 individuals in New Jersey who rely on Social Security Income (SSI).

Over the last decade, increased rental demand combined with development primarily at the high end of the market has led to record-low vacancy rates, higher rents, and increased competition for affordable and subsidized housing. This overall market trend is reflected in the ever-worsening affordability gap for extremely low-income renters with disabilities.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the federal income maintenance program that assists people with significant and long-term disabilities who have virtually no assets including people living with a mental health condition who find that there are periods of times when working becomes too difficult. In most instances, these individuals have no other source of income.

  • In New Jersey 97,468 individuals rely on SSI receiving a monthly payment receiving $764 a month in SSI.
  • In New Jersey, SSI is only 15% of the area median income.
  • Individuals relying solely on SSI would have to pay 151% of their SSI income as rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey.
  • And they would have to pay 132% of their SSI income as rent for an efficiency apartment in the state.

NAMI Podcast

Priced Out

Congressional Reception

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