Mental Health Housing Foundation (MHHF) was founded in 1990 to support the mentally ill in their quest to live independently in the community. For hundreds of years Western Civilization dealt with those with severe mental disorders by placing them in special locked facilities. Hundreds of thousands of people with mental illness were kept out of sight in state mental hospitals throughout the United States. Most people recognized that these were not very pleasant living conditions, but they were thought to be a humane option that served to protect our communities and to take care of those who could not care for themselves.
To understand MHHF it’s important to understand the people we serve. Mental illness is a health condition that is characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior that is mediated by the brain and is associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Mental disorders cause a host of problems that may include personal distress, impaired functions and disability, pain, or even death.
About forty years ago a revolution began: the first medications that helped control the symptoms. With the advent of these medications, and recognition that we as a society should not be incarcerating those who have not committed a crime, the population of state hospitals plummeted.
Unfortunately, severe and persistent mental illness has not been cured. The medications themselves can have severe side effects. Those with severe mental disorders still need significant supportive services in order to function independently. Mental illness presents a major social stigma that dissuades people from getting the help they need.
One of the biggest challenges faced in getting supportive services is finding a stable home. Without such a home there’s no safe place to cook food or sleep, no place for social workers or family to find you and little likelihood that you will get your medications. What can happen instead is that over a third of the homeless people on our streets have a serious and persistent mental illness and many mentally ill go through a revolving door of homelessness and incarceration or hospitalization.
Mental Health Housing Foundation was created to provide one of the most basic of needs: appropriate, affordable housing. We’ve approached our mission by developing a wide array of housing that meets the equally wide array of capabilities among our tenants. We offer apartments and condominiums for our most independent tenants. We offer shared housing with on site services for those who need that level of care. All rents are on a sliding scale, and with typical incomes under $600 a month, rents are minimal.
Sound Mental Health is the largest private non-profit community mental health agency in King County and provides the supportive services our tenants need. They represent MHHF as our property manager. The role of Mental Health Housing Foundation is to develop and maintain the property. We are not a service provider, but we do maintain the property. Our goal is to create homes that fit seamlessly into the neighborhood and that our tenants can be proud of. Our rents are limited and support from the broader community is very important in our success.