While there are plenty of programs out there designed to help people without a living space, it’s not always easy to know how to get benefits if you are homeless. Most government benefits programs, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, require ample paperwork and documentation. Without a stable residence, you may not have the information requested of you on the application forms. Naturally, this can make it difficult to even start the process, which may cause you to give up on the prospect of getting benefits at all.
So, can you get benefits if you are homeless? Fortunately, the answer is “yes.” Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get them for the reasons outlined above.
However, we are here to give you hope. There are definitely ways to get benefits if you are homeless. The key is just knowing where to look and what information you need to acquire beforehand. So, in today’s guide, we will help answer the titular question and provide you with the resources you need to get benefits if you are homeless or facing housing instability.
Social Security benefits for the homeless
The Social Security Administration does not require you to have a permanent residence on file to qualify for Social Security Insurance (SSI). Therefore, if you are homeless, you can still receive up to the maximum payable amount of SSI in your state. In addition to the funds that SSI provides, it can also help you take advantage of other types of benefits.
For example, if you are already receiving SSI, you might be able to gain access to subsidized housing. While living in a public shelter or subsidized housing, you can qualify for SSI benefits up to 6 months out of any 9 month period. You can learn more about applying for SSI without a permanent address right here.
Medicare or Medicaid for the homeless
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created expansions for both Medicare and Medicaid in dozens of states. Currently, if your income is no more than 138 percent of the poverty line, you can enroll in Medicare or Medicaid with or without a disability. This means that many people experiencing homelessness can now access Medicare or Medicaid without a physical address. Since Medicare and Medicaid are some of the most affordable health insurance options for the disabled and retirees, this also means that you can access both routine and urgent care at greatly reduced costs. You can learn how to apply for Medicare or Medicaid right here.
However, not all states have adopted the expansions set out by the ACA. Consequently, your location could play a major role in your ability to acquire Medicare or Medicaid while homeless. Fortunately, even if you don’t qualify, organizations like National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) help provide free healthcare centers for low-income and homeless individuals around the country.
Other benefits if you are homeless
While Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are some of the primary benefits that homeless individuals and families need to acquire, they are not the only available benefits if you are homeless. In addition to hundreds of shelters and food pantries around the country that provide food, clothing, shelter, and financial assistance to the homeless, there are also various government programs dedicated to providing benefits if you are homeless.
Continuum of Care (CoC)
The Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program helps individuals in need of transitional, short-term, or even permanent housing. More specifically, the program works with people experiencing homelessness so that they can find the best solution in their area. The CoC works directly with public housing and shelters around the country, ensuring that you can find a housing option that best fits your needs. You can learn more about the CoC program and how to apply for housing assistance at this link.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers various programs and benefits to homeless individuals or families at risk of experiencing homelessness. These can vary from immediate, emergency shelter to long-term housing assistance. Regardless of your exact needs, HUD has resources and people ready to assist you in emergency situations in all 50 states. You can learn more about HUD resources and benefits right here.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has multiple programs for homeless assistance, including Health Care for the Homeless, Services in Supportive Housing, and Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals. Many of these programs specifically target homeless individuals who are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. You can learn more about targeted HHS benefits for the homeless at this link.
Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) provides monthly income to families experiencing sudden joblessness, loss of income, homelessness, or other hardships that make it difficult or impossible to pay for the necessities. Fortunately, TANF is available to homeless individuals in most locations. You can use TANF funds to pay for clothing, fuel, housing, utilities, food, medication, and any other items that you need to live. You can learn more about qualifying and applying for TANF right here.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) specifically targets individuals and families in need of funds to buy food. Unlike TANF funds, SNAP can only be used at participating supermarkets and grocery stores to buy food ingredients. It cannot be used to buy hot, ready-made food (like you might find at a restaurant). In any case, homeless individuals can qualify for monthly SNAP funds to help fund or supplement their grocery needs. You can learn more about applying for SNAP at this link.
The Bottom Line
Looking for benefits if you are homeless can feel like an uphill battle. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources out there to ensure that you get the food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and funds that you need. Many of these programs are run by local, state, or federal agencies, though there are also hundreds of private organizations that are ready and willing to help those in need. If you’d like more advice to help you while you seek out housing or other assistance, be sure to check out our guide on how to be homeless in America!