Accessing Mainstream Benefits

People with limited financial resources and support networks are most vulnerable to homelessness. One medical emergency, a disabling health condition, or the loss of employment can plunge an individual or family into homelessness. Mainstream benefits play an important role in supplementing household income and can help serve as a safety net for financially vulnerable households. 

Mainstream benefits fall into three broad categories:  income supports, health care, and work supports. While most individuals experiencing homelessness are eligible for these mainstream benefits, surprisingly few access the full range of benefits available to them. Often, this is the result of complicated application procedures and fragmented service systems. Given limited resources for targeted homeless assistance programs, it is essential that communities develop strategies to improve access to mainstream benefits.

Below, users will find information and resources on topics related to a variety of mainstream benefit programs, including (but not limited to):

  • Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Medicaid
  • VA Health and Pension Benefits
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (previously known as Food Stamps)

Additional Resources

Strategies You Can Use to Connect People Experiencing Homelessness to SSI/SSDI Benefits

A Closer Look: Opening Doors, as Amended in 2015 - Spotlight on Medicaid

Opening Doors, as amended in 2015

Housing is Healthcare

Harnessing Medicaid to Help Solve Homelessness

Medicaid is a Game-Changer for Ending Chronic Homelessness, But to Win, We Have to Play

The New Orleans Model for Ending Veteran Homelessness

Good News from San Diego: Rapid Re-Housing Helps Veteran Get Back on Track

Early Childhood and HUD Working Together to End Family Homelessness

Positive Outcomes for Victims of Domestic Violence and Families through Housing First Pilot Program


#NAEH15 Begins Tomorrow

Youth Homelessness and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

Veteran Homelessness in Virginia: The Ending of a Story Just Beginning

At White House, Mayors Strategize on Efforts to End Veteran Homelessness

Optimizing Community Efforts to End Veteran Homelessness

Good News from Washington, DC

The President’s 2016 Budget Invests in What Works to End Homelessness

Lessons Learned from Developing Coordinated Entry Systems: Richmond and Los Angeles

In Utah, a History of Progress Inspires Greater Action

Medicaid Can Pay for Services for People in Permanent Supportive Housing

Good News from New Orleans: Federal and Community Collaboration Helped Transform This Veteran’s Life

Meeting the Unique Needs of Families

Serving Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

How Our Shelter Began Focusing on Permanent Housing, And Started Ending Homelessness for Our Clients.

Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit

Hear from Two Community Partners about How They Are Ending Family Homelessness through Our Sept. 10 Webinar

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu Announces Ambitious Plan to End Veteran Homelessness

Ensuring that Homelessness Never Follows Foster Care

Communities Come Together to Discuss Coordinated Entry

Your Input Is Essential to the Ongoing Success of Opening Doors

Your Questions Answered - Webinar on Ending Family Homelessness - Part One

The True Cost of Doing Nothing

Why Permanent Supportive Housing and Managed Care Need Each Other

How Medicaid Expansion Will Benefit People Experiencing Homelessness

Ending Family Homelessness: A Message to Continuum of Care & Ten-Year Plan Leaders from Barbara Poppe

Ending Chronic Homelessness: A Message to Continuum of Care & Ten-Year Plan Leaders from Barbara Poppe

A Safe Place: Established Safe Haven provider begins collaboration with Tampa VAMC

What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - September 24-27

What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - September 10-14

Medicaid: Ensuring Full Expansion & Assertive Outreach in all States

What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - August 27-31

A Unique Permanent Supportive Housing Plan and Using Medicaid to Make it Happen: My time in Louisiana

The Affordable Care Act and Homelessness

USICH Releases 2015 Amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

June 22, 2015                             ...

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Announces New Grants to Help End Veteran Homelessness

Initiative Targets 45,000 Homeless and At-Risk Vets and Families in High Need Communities Secretary of Veterans...

The President’s 2016 Budget makes investments to end chronic homelessness in 2017 and to make significant progress in ending homelessness across all other populations

The President's 2016 Budget is designed to bring middle class economics into the 21st Century....

The President’s 2016 Budget: Fact Sheet on Homelessness Assistance

President Obama’s 2016 Budget demonstrates his deep commitment to ending homelessness. The Budget makes...

The Affordable Care Act’s Role in Preventing and Ending Homelessness

What is the Affordable Care Act?  On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care...

Web-Based Screeners and Applications: Potential Tools for Improving Benefit Access and Program Efficiency

HHS, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation September 2011 ASPE released a new...

Strategies for Improving Homeless People’s Access to Mainstream Benefits

Martha R. Burt, Jenneth Carpenter, Samuel G. Hall, Kathryn A. Henderson, Debra J. Rog, John...

Findings from a Study of the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery Initiative

Jacqueline Kauff, Jonathan Brown, Norma Altshuler, Noelle Denny-Brown, and Emily Sama Martin September 2009 "The Supplemental...

Evaluation of Homeless Outreach Projects and Evaluation (HOPE)

Marion L. McCoy, Ph.D., Cynthia S. Robins, Ph.D., James Bethel, Ph.D., Carina...

What Factors Account for State-to-State Differences in Food Security

Judi Bartfeld, Rachel Dunifon, Mark Nord, and Steven Carlson November 2006 States differ in the extent...

Effect of Social Security Payments on Substance Abuse in a Homeless Mentally Ill Cohort

Marc I. Rosen, Thomas J. McMahon, HaiQun Lin, Robert A. Rosenheck November 2005 The purpose of...

Food Stamp Program Access Study: Final Report

Susan Bartlett, Nancy Burstein, and William Hamilton, with the assistance of Ryan Kling November 2004 The...

Simplified Reporting and Transitional Benefits in the Food Stamp Program

Carole Trippe, Liz Schott, Nancy Wemmerus, and Andrew Burwick May 2004 "This study examines the experiences...

Variations in Maternal and Child Wellbeing by TANF Participation

Nancy E. Reichman, Julien O. Teitler, Irwin Garfinkel, and Sandra Garcia January 2004 "This study uses...

Employment Factors Influencing Food Stamp Program Participation

Signe-Mary McKernan and Caroline Ratcliffe, with contributions from Emily Rosenberg November 2003 "This study examines how...

Holes in the Safety Net: Mainstream Systems and Homelessness

Katharine Gale and Aram Shepherd February 2003 Research has show that any successful effort to end...

Homelessness, substance misuse, and access to public entitlements in a soup kitchen population

Peter C. Nwakeze, Ph.D., Stephen Magura, Ph.D., C.S.W., Andrew Rosenblum, Ph...

Promoting Medicaid and Food Stamp Participation

LaDonna Pavetti, Kathleen Maloy, and Liz Schott June 2002 This study, 'Promoting Medicaid and Food Stamp...

Homelessness, Substance Misuse, and Access to Public Entitlements in a soup kitchen population

Peter C. Nwakeze, Stephen Magura, Andrew Rosenblum, and Herman Joseph January 2003 This study examines the...

Improving Access to Disability Benefits Among Homeless Persons With Mental Illness: An Agency-Specific Approach to Services Integration.

Robert Rosenheck, Linda Frisman, and Wesley Kasprow April 1999 This study evaluated a joint initiative of...

Outcomes After Initial Receipt of Social Security Benefits Among Homeless Veterans With Mental Illness

Robert A. Rosenheck, David J. Dausey, Linda Frisman, and Wesley Kasprow December 2000 This study examines...

Children’s Health Insurance Program: CHIP

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a partnership between the Federal and...


Medicaid is generally a means-tested health care entitlement program financed by States and the Federal...

Social Security Retirement

The Social Security Retirement Program pays benefits to individuals who are at least 62 years old...

Social Security Disability Insurance

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to adults who cannot work because...

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as the Food Stamps Program, helps over 34...

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

The WIC program provides a voucher or coupon (some states use an EBT card) for...

Supplemental Security Income

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides cash assistance to meet the basic needs of...

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs provide time-limited assistance to needy families with children...

Veterans Benefits Assistance Outreach Program

Veterans Benefits Assistance Homeless Veterans Outreach Coordinators (HVOCs) are located at 56 VA regional offices nationwide....

Coordinated Assessment: Putting the Key Pieces in Place

Remarks by Eric Grumdahl at a gathering of community stakeholders focused on ending Veteran and...

Assisting Veterans Experiencing Homelessness through VA or non-VA Programs

The national goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015 encompasses all Veterans: individual Veterans and Veterans...

Identifying & Referring Veterans Experiencing Homelessness

The Obama Administration is committed to achieving an end to homelessness among Veterans, and...

Social Security Administration Clarification of Identification Requirements

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has made some recent changes to its identification requirements for...

Solving for Services: New Medicaid Opportunities to Pay for the “Support” in Permanent Supportive Housing

Solving for Services: New Medicaid Opportunities to Pay for the “Support” in Permanent...

Using Medicaid to Fund Supportive Services

What is Medicaid Today? Medicaid is a partnership between states and the Federal Government providing...

Accessing Mainstream Benefits

People with limited financial resources and support networks are most vulnerable to homelessness. One medical...