Three of the Melville Trust’s national grantees are on the forefront of efforts to ensure that people with serious mental illness or other disabilities have the opportunity to live in safe, decent housing where they can access the supports they need to live independently: the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), and the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC). They all share a commitment to the basic principles of choice, access, and opportunity.
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of adults and children who have mental disabilities. They pursue a progressive mental health policy agenda, particularly at the federal level, to reform systems and programs to protect the rights of children and adults with mental disabilities to lead lives with dignity in the community. Policy staff promote these goals in federal legislation and regulation, policy analysis and research, and technical assistance to state and local advocates.
People with mental disabilities can successfully live in their own homes like everyone else. Yet, historically, service systems have steered people with mental disabilities to group homes, board and care homes, nursing homes, and other congregate settings. Those who seek housing on their own are often thwarted by discrimination and low income.
To help people with mental disabilities live in their own homes, Bazelon advocates for affordable housing, fights housing discrimination, and works to expand supportive housing, which links people who have severe disabilities with the assistance they need to live independently. Supportive housing has allowed thousands of people with serious mental illnesses to live independently, integrated into their communities.
Key to their advocacy is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and more specifically the community integration mandate that was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1999 Olmstead decision. The ADA and the Olmstead decision are essentially desegregation mandates, intended to allow people who have disabilities to move from the social sidelines into the community mainstream.
Whether monitoring events on Capitol Hill, working in coalitions with various advocacy groups, litigating class-action lawsuits, providing technical assistance, or directly lobbying federal agencies and policy makers, the Bazelon Center stays ahead of the curve looking for opportunities to expand safe, secure, long-term and integrated housing for people with mental disabilities.
Corporation for supportive Housing
The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) advances solutions that use housing as a platform for services to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people, maximize public resources, and build healthy communities. CSH builds relationships within federal, state and local governments to increase understanding and backing of supportive housing. They advocate for comprehensive policy and programs that help very vulnerable people receive the coordinated services they need. CSH works with communities to shift public resources in a way that lightens the burden on systems, reduces public costs and improves outcomes for the people most in need.
CSH‘s Social Innovation Fund Initiative (SIFI) responds directly to one of the most pressing policy problems currently facing states and communities and the nation as a whole: rising public spending on health care (Medicaid) with poor health outcomes. In nearly every state, a major contributor to growing public spending on Medicaid is a small subset of individuals who are caught in a revolving door of emergency room visits, inpatient hospitalizations, detox stays, and involvement in other costly crisis health services. For these individuals, homelessness exacerbates chronic illnesses by increasing exposure to trauma and high-risk behaviors, which in turn results in social isolation and difficulties accessing coordinated primary and behavioral health services needed to manage and expedite recovery. In recent years, communities across the country have piloted enhanced models of supportive housing with better and more deliberate links to primary and behavioral health services to reach these high-need, high-cost clients. Studies of these enhanced supportive housing models have shown impressive results in their ability to improve care while reducing costs.
SIFI was launched on September 1, 2011 when CSH was selected as a recipient of a $2.3 million grant from the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a program of the White House’s Corporation for National Community Service. The Fund represents a new federal government approach to advancing promising social innovations that can improve the lives of people in low-income communities. Through the Fund, government and philanthropic partners work through non-profit intermediaries to co-invest in programs that increase the scale of community-based solutions that have evidence of real impact in the areas of youth development, economic opportunity or healthy futures.
Every federal dollar invested in SIF needs to be matched dollar-for-dollar; the Melville Trust contributed to this match along with other philanthropic partners, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Fannie Mae. CSH is using the funds in four sites: Ann Arbor, MI; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and the state of Connecticut. The ultimate goal is for the most effective approaches to be expanded to reach more people in need and the key lessons are captured and broadly shared to spur expansion and replication across the country.
Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC)
The Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) provides policy and advocacy leadership on housing, health and human services issues affecting very low-income people with disabilities and people who are homeless. These activities include engagement and collaboration with federal, state, and local government officials, as well as providing technical assistance and consultation to states and localities on best practice affordable and permanent supportive housing and service system approaches and strategies.
TAC, in partnership with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force (CCD), led the successful effort to enact the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act in 2012, inaugurating a new and highly cost-effective federal approach to expand integrated permanent supportive housing opportunities. Using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 811 Program as a platform, the Melville Act is quadrupling the number of new supportive housing units created annually without increased appropriation. It does this by using project-based Section 8 rent subsidies to leverage unit set-asides for people with disabilities in housing financed through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and other housing programs, and incentivizing new partnerships between state housing and health and human services/Medicaid agencies. TAC’s Resource Center on Supportive Housing provides up to the minute information on HUD’s implementation of the Melville Act, as well as an array of resources for state officials and other supportive housing stakeholders.
The Melville Trust previously supported TAC’s work to create a comprehensive and state-driven 3,000 unit permanent supportive housing initiative in the areas of Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina. This work served as a model for the development of many aspects of the Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act.