Can government services force you to seek housing as a condition of getting benefits and services?

**** The information written here is not legal advice and the author of this blog is not your lawyer.  These posts merely contain ideas to help you plan and organize your legal research and identify potentially helpful sources of law. ****

The legal qualifications for public assistance benefits are based upon financial assets and health, not on housing. The regulations do not authorize government agencies to withhold benefits from the homeless or to make them contingent upon somebody’s becoming un-homeless. Nevertheless, staff might encourage homeless clients to participate in programs to get them into government subsidized apartments or other housing.

A homeless applicant, knowing that the law does not require him to give up being homeless in order to get federal disability benefits, medical assistance, or food stamps, must also realize that the law does not forbid government agencies from informing clients about housing programs. There is no law preventing them from even requiring someone to listen to a long housing presentation when applying for disability, food stamps, or medical assistance. This knowledge, that only information-not housing can be forced upon him, should prevent a homeless person from feeling pressured to conform or feeling frustrated that he might not get the benefits.

This is another situation in which being familiar with the law does not necessarily give someone grounds to sue. Instead, it helps assure more balanced communication in which the client need not feel like a victim and the service provider need not feel like an enemy. Sometimes, agencies tell clients about other programs for which they are eligible only to be sure that the client knows about that eligibility. Sometimes, they tell because getting into the other program might lead to the client’s no longer needing government assistance.

There is nothing illegal about either of those motives. Anyone who takes offense at them is choosing not to appreciate that they are offerings of help, offers that can certainly be declined without fear of punishment. Clients always have the right to say something like, “I’m aware that the food stamp regulations do not require me to participate in the housing program or to have my own permanent address, but thank you for offering me that information.”

Links to government support programs:

Advertisements

Can you have different addresses at which you get mail for different purposes?

**** The information written here is not legal advice and the author of this blog is not your lawyer.  These posts merely contain ideas to help you plan and organize your legal research and identify potentially helpful sources of law. ****

 

The phrase “legal address” is used to indicate the place where someone makes his or her home.  If you do not have a home and you get mail delivered to places that gave you permission to do so, it is legal to use those addresses.   In other words, the phrase “illegal address” would not describe that arrangement.

 The law does not prevent homeless people from having their mail delivered to multiple places.  If you want your Social Security mail delivered to your case worker’s office and your medical mail delivered to your brother’s house you only have to know about the policies of the people or offices sending the mail and the willingness of the places receiving the mail.  (See the other posts about mail for more ideas about researching mail-related rights.)

 Of course, you also have to worry about confusing an agency’s record keeping system. As long as it is necessary to complete separate applications for separate services, there is probably no reason to assume that a single address has to be used on all of them. However, if all of the services are administered under one agency, such as the state department of health and human services, there’s a likelihood that all client data goes into a single database where the most recently entered street address applies to everything involving a client.