On Mental Health: Adequate Housing Is An Inalienable Right

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday January 04, 2011 - 04:38:00 PM

Affordable, safe, accessible, clean housing should be provided for all persons with major mental illnesses, across the board. This is an area that creates numerous and persistent problems for those who are economically and otherwise affected by having these psychiatric diseases.  

Numerous persons with mental illness experience a lonely death on the streets because of the fact that housing was not provided. While others are assaulted in or near their own homes, and their housing has become place of dread or terror. Some must put up with substandard housing, some of which may include living in a place of filth and cockroaches. Others can barely afford their housing and sometimes must choose between either paying rent or eating.  

Moreover, there are some mentally ill people who still live with parents, well into their middle age. I would have done this if my parents permitted it; I was kicked out for good in my early twenties.  

I have experienced several housing situations in which I was bullied, intimidated or harassed by a criminal element. This took place in an apartment complex intended for mentally ill people, in which the staff that was supposed to be supervising allowed people other than tenants to live there. It took place in another apartment complex that had low rental, and the landlord wasn’t very selective about who was allowed to rent. In another housing situation, it was the staff persons who were the bullies, and the tenants were made to feel criminalized.  

One of the problems that cause bad housing situations to exist is that these apartment complexes are treated as moneymakers for the corporations that run them. The regulations that are supposed to protect the tenants either aren’t there or they aren’t being enforced. When practicable, the corporations that own these places will fire qualified staff who might require more salary, and will replace them with unqualified people, and give them minimal hours. Whistleblowers, whether they are tenants or staff, are subject to retaliation.  

People in the middleclass as well as those who are affluent don’t want housing for mentally ill people in their neighborhood. People believe that mentally ill people will assault their grandmothers and will sell drugs to their daughters. They see mental health housing as a factor that will devalue their property. Because of all this, it can be very hard to get mental health housing approved in a number of neighborhoods. Those who want to create such a facility may be forced to build it in a high crime, or blighted area.  

Public attitude toward the mentally ill isn’t always very good. It can be an unpopular move for a politician to push for a costly project that will help mentally ill people. Since popularity is necessary for any politician to keep their job, these projects can be few and far between.  

However, if people would look at the amount of suffering caused by inadequate housing for mentally ill people, they might change their minds about funding it.