By Jack Bragen
Friday June 21, 2013 - 07:14:00 AM

Housing is a key issue for nonworking persons with mental illness, since often we can't afford to pay much rent on the public benefits we get. Simply renting a room is sometimes unaffordable. This means that many of us are forced for economic reasons to live in an institutional situation. Living in some kind of institutional housing is no life. 

Eighteen years ago, I lived at a place called Riverhouse, which rents rooms to disabled people and seniors. Considering the alternatives, this was a pretty good compromise, and allowed living with a good amount of independence. Most of the rooms there don't have air conditioning, and in summer months, the rooms could get up to one hundred ten degrees. The rooms there are quite small, and lack amenities. However, this was a far better situation than living in a board and care, in which there are too many restrictions, and there is no privacy. 

"Board and care" and "room and board" housing entails giving the owner nearly all of one's income in return for a shared room, bad food, and maltreatment in general. 

After Riverhouse, my wife and I moved to a one bedroom apartment which we could pay for with a HUD voucher that we had acquired. However, this housing eventually turned bad, as the neighborhood changed for the worse. We were forced out by neighbors who didn't like us. 

We then moved to the place in which we live now. However, we will not be able to afford the current place indefinitely. HUD has suffered budget cuts, and is reducing the amount it will pay. The result of this is that we can not afford to live in most places. 

If someone is disabled, finding adequate, affordable housing is extremely difficult. The places that still accept section 8 tend to be in the very worst areas. Section 8 has acquired a bad name among landlords. This means that good tenants, who seem to be in the minority, are forced to live under difficult conditions. 

At this point, if someone is disabled and not wealthy, there are few choices for housing. Thus, persons with disabilities are forced into institutional situations. This is fine with people who don't want integration of people with disabilities. However, it leaves us at the short end. 

Society is asking persons with mental illness to cooperate with treatment, which can be a very painful enterprise, but nothing is being offered as far as decent living conditions. We are not being offered hope of something better. This is too much to ask. 

* * * As always, my books are for sale on Amazon, including, "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self Help Manual," and other titles. I can still be reached with your comments at: