This article is published in partnership with Knock LA, a nonprofit independent news outlet in Los Angeles.
Permanent supportive housing is presented as a solution to homelessness, an issue that many people face all over the country. Homelessness remains a big issue in Los Angeles, a city with one of the largest populations of people without stable and permanent housing. In order for folks experiencing homelessness to access permanent supportive housing, there are certain requirements, mandated by the federal government, that they have to fulfill in order to be eligible to qualify.
Unfortunately, these requirements, set forth by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), do not apply on a case-by-case basis. It is important for these requirements to be applied on a case-by-case basis because everyone has different needs. These federal requirements for permanent supportive housing can deter someone from success and can hinder their own well-being.
As someone who is currently looking for permanent supportive housing, I have faced a few barriers that have prevented me from having access to stable housing. For instance, annual background checks and income verification are required as proof for the individual occupying the living space. When verifying income, meeting an area median income threshold (AMI) is required. This is a barrier because AMI limits the amount of income someone can make when they are coming out of homelessness and trying to move forward with their life.
This means that, if you make more than the area median income, you put yourself at risk of being asked to leave the unit due to making too much money. This takes away housing from people experiencing homelessness because, instead of trying to encourage and support people, they are telling them to not make more money to support themselves.
Imagine having to constantly turn down employment or stress about whether a job will make you too much money and get you kicked out of housing, just to end up living once more on the street or in a shelter. Renting a living space in Los Angeles is expensive. When you also calculate food and transportation for a homeless individual, it is not ideal for someone living in permanent supportive housing to get back on their feet and progress.
In addition to income verification, you also need to have a verified disability to be eligible for permanent supportive housing. This is another barrier because some of the houseless populations do not have the ability to seek healthcare services in order to get verification from a provider. Some people with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness may not be equipped with the capacity to transport themselves to meet with a doctor all the time. Folks with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness are also trying to survive daily, not get a doctor’s note that can be more easily obtained after they’ve moved into housing.
I understand the desire to ensure no one is manipulating systems set in place to help vulnerable individuals. But I also understand the harshness of these requirements. Just by creating these requirements, we are demanding our homeless populations to prove that they are worthy of support, shelter, and treatment. This is not fair to people experiencing homelessness or the people working to help them.