SSI is extremely important for chronically homeless people now and will continue to be so even after the vast majority of chronically and other homeless people become eligible for Medicaid in 2014. SSI provides income that lets people contribute to rent, thereby greatly increasing the odds that they will become stably housed. And SSI will continue to establish its beneficiaries categorical eligibility for Medicaid after 2014, thereby qualifying them for full Medicaid benefits that will likely cover more of the care they need than the basic benefits available through state benchmark Medicaid plans.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council and SAMHSAs SOAR Technical Assistance Center have done excellent jobs of identifying the challenges of helping chronically homeless people qualify for SSI and of offering approaches and techniques to help medical and other practitioners overcome these challenges. NHCHC materials are directed toward practitioners in Health Care for the Homeless programs, which are authorized and partially supported by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Primary Health Care in the Health Resources and Services Administration. SOAR is directed to anyone serving persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness who may also have mental illnesses or other disorders that may co-occur with mental illness.
Even though these resources are available and fairly widely advertised, some Health Care for the Homeless programs and other Health Centers and agencies that provides health and behavioral health services to chronically homeless people and PSH tenants have not yet put them into practice. Partnerships among the agencies that provide housing and support services to formerly chronically homeless people are one way to improve this populations access to health care of all types. Joint training to facilitate enrollment in SSI is one important element for these partnerships, but the larger task will be reconfiguring existing resources or finding new resources to staff SSI outreach and application assistance.