May 13, 2019
In California, board-and-care homes are closing at an alarming rate. These closures drastically affect thousands of low-income Californians with serious mental illness. Since 2012, San Francisco has lost more than a third of licensed residential facilities that serve people under 60, and more than a quarter of those serving older clients. Los Angeles lost more than 200 beds for low-income people with serious mental illness in 2018 alone.
The main reason is money. The house prices and rents are skyrocketing in both cities, making them affordable only to upper middle classes and rich.
Compared to these skyrocketing housing prices, operating the board-and-care homes looks like a huge financial loss to their owners and therefore not “smart.” Owners of licensed board-and-care homes receive a government-set monthly rent of $1058 from tenants to pay for housing, 24-hour-care and three daily meals. The tenants cover that cost with their monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks, a combination of federal and state funds for people with serious mental illness.
By comparison, the average apartment rent is nearing $2,400 in Los Angeles and about $3,600 in San Francisco. So owners of the board-and-care homes are either selling their properties or renting them to high income people.
Larry Mateo closed five board-and-care homes he operated in San Francisco in 2018. Now one is for sale and two others are being rented to young people who can pay the high rents. Mateo said: “That’s an easy no-brainer decision. I don’t have payroll, I don’t have to go buy groceries, I don't have to deal with clientele. There were residents, however, who initially refused to leave. Some said, ‘I have no place to go. I love this place.’ We had to call the sheriff to move them out because they just didn’t want to move. I’m not sure if it was part of their mental illness, but they didn’t want to adapt to change. They said, ‘This is my home. Why are you moving me out?’”
A brutal outcome of this capitalist society in which profit trumps everything else.