While some people are eligible to receive federal disability payments, this financial assistance doesn’t provide enough to afford housing. In 2016, the national average rent for a studio apartment was $752, while the average monthly Social Security disability payment was $744. How can a person with mental illness afford housing and other costs, like food, clothing, transportation and medication when rent takes up 99 percent of their benefit?

This is an important question because housing is a social determinant of health, let alone for someone with mental illness. Without a roof over their head and food to eat, going to treatment or taking medication is a luxury they may not be able to afford. Without safe, secure housing, the stress from trying to keep a roof over their head can cause symptoms to worsen. This is why so many people struggling with mental illness end up in emergency rooms, hospitals, on the streets and in jails.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We need more community-based support for people with mental illness. When people have safe and affordable housing, they are much more likely to engage in mental health treatment and get on a path towards recovery. Supportive housing models are particularly effective because they combine affordable housing with case management and mental health services. These models not only help people with mental illness manage their conditions, they also reduce the costly use of emergency departments and psychiatric hospitalizations.

Those with severe mental illness need stability to recover, and the first step towards stability is having an affordable, safe place to live.