This discussion paper looks at the close relationship between homelessness and mental illness, and considers alternative strategies to respond to the needs of homeless people with mental illness who are reliant on social housing for their accommodation needs.
Given the likelihood that people living with mental illness are reliant on disability support pensions or other forms of Centrelink payments, or are on low incomes, social housing is the most likely option for stable, safe accommodation. For people with mental illness, legal issues associated with obtaining and sustaining tenancies with social and community housing providers is one of the more commonly identified areas of legal need. This is confirmed by the HPLS casework, in which problems with social housing is the second most commonly reported legal problem for people with mental illness. The difficulties identified through HPLS casework and exemplified in the case studies included in this discussion paper illustrate particular situations to which people with mental illness seeking to apply or maintain social housing are vulnerable. These include : poor customer service and delayed/inadequate communications from Housing NSW; inappropriate offers of social housing premises that are unsuited to the physical or psychological needs of the applicants; inflexible application of Housing NSW policies in relation to accessing priority status; housing related debts leading to tenancy termination; and neighbour disputes.