A $2 million federal grant to Montana will help about 82 poor and disabled people, including some Billings residents, live independently.
This type of federal funding previously has flowed primarily to nonprofit developers building housing for the disabled.
“In the long-term that (approach) isolates individuals into a neighborhood where the residents all have some disability. In the long run, it also costs more,” said Rick R. Garcia, U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s regional administrator in Denver.
“The $2 million is aimed at keeping extremely low-income people who are disabled from being institutionalized or becoming homeless,” Garcia said.
The Montana Department of Commerce and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services jointly sought the grant.
Three Montana cities and one county will share the funding: Billings, Helena and Missoula, as well as Kalispell and Flathead County. Montana’s application bested four other Rocky Mountain states that applied for the grant, Garcia said.
In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments must provide services to people with disabilities in the most integrated appropriate setting.
In addition to homelessness, Montana Commerce spokeswoman Marissa Kozel said many people with mental health issues are also at risk of ending up in high-cost housing.
“An individual with some mental issues who could live on their own should not be living in a nursing home,” she said.
This grant money will go to people ages 18 to 62 who qualify for Medicaid waiver programs due to mental or physical handicaps. They also need stable support networks to transition successfully.
But don’t bother to apply.
The Montanans most in need of this housing subsidy have already been identified by DPHHS officials, Kozel said.
“We definitely have the need and we hope to be able to serve additional people in the future,” she said.
The $2 million grant is spread out over five years, said Commerce Department housing administrator Bruce Brensdal.
“The money is in the existing budget, so it won’t get caught up in the current fiscal issues in Washington, D.C.,” he said.