The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 builds on the work of state mental health authorities and the National Institute of Mental Health in the early 1980s. The act and its subsequent amendments are designed to organize, coordinate, and enhance federal support to the states in financing the development of shelter, health, housing, employment, and support services to homeless persons. There is a special focus in the act on assisting homeless persons with handicaps. In the main, the New England states have met the requirements of the act to provide mandated essential services, which include outreach; community mental health, crisis, and rehabilitation services; health and substance-abuse services; training of homeless service providers; case management, including service planning, benefits assistance, and service coordination; and supportive residential services. While the federal funds available are insufficient to cover the majority of costs associated with serving homeless and mentally ill persons, states report their utility in targeting high-needs areas, supporting demonstrations of service innovations, creating incentives for state and local matching funds, and focusing on vulnerable subpopulations. State advocates credit the McKinney Act mental health programs for stimulating localities' interest in and ability to attract HUD funding for housing special needs persons among those homeless. Within the contrary New England economic context, the federal contribution is an important resource and stimulus to state spending.



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