Preventing homelessness or ending it quickly for Massachusetts residents with serious mental illness (SMI) has been a strong element of the Department of Mental Health’s agenda for approximately two decades. The Department of Mental Health (DMH, or the Department) estimates that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is home to approximately 48,000 adults with SMI. Of these, the Department serves the most disabled and the poorest. Client incomes hover around 15 percent of the area median income. Most clients are not employed, and rely on SSI-SSDI benefits for their income. DMH efforts to prevent or end homelessness for its clients have been greatly strengthened since 1992, when the legislature passed the first Special Homeless Initiative (HI) legislation. HI provides resources to reduce the incidence of homelessness among people with SMI. Housing development, both specifically for homeless people and more generally for people with SMI, has been a strong component of the overall DMH effort and the major focus of HI investment specifically. Related aspects of DMH policies and practices include protocols for discharge planning, staff training to focus on housing issues, outreach to people with SMI living on the streets or in shelters, development of specialized shelters, and other aspects of homelessness prevention and intervention.
Burt, Martha R., "History, Principles, Context, and Approach: The Special Homeless Initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health" (2007). Center for Social Policy Publications. 40.