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Painted Brain | Madness In Law And Policy #2
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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  • February 2, 2015

Madness In Law and Policy #2

The Vanishing Board-and-Cares of LA

I speak to folks all the time about issues involving the mental health community, and I feel that housing is one of the most difficult to solve, since most of us are on fixed incomes with little extra cash. Since those with good jobs find it difficult to obtain decent housing in LA., when someone who earns less than a $1,000/month tries to find a place, any chance for success requires real creativity.

For this reason and many others, some of our people prefer to live in board-and-care-homes. The board-and-care takes the majority of one’s SSI payment but offers housing, food, and some basic necessities.

For some, this is a great help. There was a time when a home operator could make a profit running a board-and-care, so prospective clients could count on finding an acceptable place to live, even in a few relatively affluent areas, but in the past ten years, this situation has changed alarmingly.

I lived in board-and-care homes throughout LA during the Nineties, and while most places had some real problems, I was happy just to have a place to live. At that time, I was too unstable to manage my money, too unstable to monitor my own medication, and really needed the company of other people. For this reason, board-and-care homes were an important facet of my recovery.

One of the homes where I lived, the cleanest, best-run, and the one located in the nicest area, closed about three years ago. This was a major blow to me, and to all who used the home as a springboard to their recovery, not to mention those who were living in the home at the time of its closure. Just this past month, I had a long conversation with the Executive Director of the mental health center that ran the place. I told her of my concerns and the great loss I thought this was for everyone who relied on the space (and who might’ve relied on it in the future).
She told me that the mental health center did everything they could to keep the doors open, but after the building was sold, the new owner raised the rent beyond what was feasible, and soon, the building had been renovated and turned into yet another luxury apartment building.

As I spoke with the director further, she stated that she’d been tracking the issue, and that board-and-care homes were vanishing all over the city, as home operators are finding it increasingly difficult to turn a profit. Operators, she said, receive less than $30/day per tenant for all services rendered, including room, board, and a twenty-four hour support staff.

I think one would be hard-pressed to find somewhere willing to board a cat or a dog for less than thirty dollars a night. This is a real problem. We need the state to increase the fees payable to board-and-care home operators. The amount needs to be doubled if we are to keep homes threatened by this crisis open, as well improve conditions at all board-and-cares.

Tristan Scremin was born in Rosario, Argentina and emigrated to the US along with his family as a young child. He spent his formative years in Albuquerque NM and has lived in the Los Angeles area since 1991. Tristan believes that a true understanding of one’s own story is a key to understanding the world.

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