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Housing subsidies for mentally ill

Published (3/13/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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A former Section 8 housing administrator, turned legislator, is asking for an additional $3.4 million to be added to a rent subsidy program for the mentally ill.

Rep. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls), sponsor of HF522, saw 5,000 applicants for 150 vouchers when he served on a demonstration project a few years ago.

“When I left there two years ago, there were 3,500 people who were still on the waiting list,” Hayden told the House Housing Finance and Policy and Public Health Finance Division March 10. The division held the bill over for possible omnibus bill inclusion. There is no Senate companion.

Hayden said 54 percent of homeless adults report that they have been diagnosed with mental illness. “Stable housing is necessary for recovery,” he added.

The Housing Finance Agency is expected to receive $5.27 million in the next biennium for the Bridges rental housing program, which provides rent assistance to persons with serious and persistent mental illness. The bill would raise the base funding to $8.67 million. Subsidies would go to people with mental illness who are on Section 8 housing voucher waiting lists.

Nicole Jarousek said the program has allowed her to pay her bills, including rent, while she waits for Section 8 housing. After finding herself homeless four times in one year, she now lives close to relatives in a 700 square-foot apartment in Stillwater.

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