A home of one’s own: The county tries a program for greater independence

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A promising trial program by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services will allot $200 a month to 20 residents in group housing who would like to live on their own.

The two-year program will use a relatively small amount of public funds to make a large impact on the lives of those with mental illness or intellectual disability who are ready and able to leave group homes. It will give people the opportunity to find jobs and independent housing and save the county the cost of housing them in community resident facilities, which can be up to $600 a month.

For some group residents, $200 a month can mean the difference between their low-income wages or Supplemental Security Income and the cost of rent they would pay in the open market to live on their own. If successful, the county support would enable them to achieve greater independence and function more fully in the community.

Since the program is temporary, the county will be able to analyze its effectiveness, fine-tune its workings and let it expire if necessary. At this early stage, however, the plan looks appealing.

Beyond helping these residents to live more independently, the program could open slots in group homes for others who truly need that level of support and care. Right now, the county’s waiting list for supported housing ranges from 300 to 400 people.

By giving the plan a try, the county may be better able to focus the right amount of resources on the right homes for the right people.

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