Want to share what you like about MassLegalHelp with us?


Social Security benefits for homeless people with disabilities

Produced by Edited version of document created by Greater Boston Legal Services, Disability Law Center, and Tri-City Homeless Services Program in cooperation with the Disability Determination Services Advisory Committee. Funding provided by the MLAC
Reviewed September 2018

Can I Get SSI and SSDI if I am Homeless? In a Shelter?

Yes. You do not need to have a home to get SSI or SSDI, only a way for SSA to contact you and pay your benefits (by mail or direct deposit). You can get SSI for 6 months out of every 9 months you stay in a public (government run) emergency shelter. There is no time limit on getting SSI in a private shelter. There are no limits on getting SSDI in a shelter.

Can I get SSI/SSDI if I Have a History of Substance Abuse?

Yes. Substance abuse alone is no longer considered a disability, but you may qualify for benefits because you have other health or psychiatric problems that keep or have kept you from working.

What if my Health Problems are Caused by Substance Abuse?

It does not matter how your other health problems started. For example, if you are disabled by liver disease that you got from drinking, you might still qualify for SSI/SSDI if your liver disease would still be disabling if you stopped drinking.

What Can I Do to Help?

Tell SSA if you are homeless.

Your case will be handled by a DDS examiner who knows about the issues facing homeless people.

Try to gather information to support your application:

  • A list of your health problems.
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, therapists, and hospitals where you have been treated, and dates of treatment.
  • Proof of your identity, such as a driver’s license; state ID card; marriage, divorce, or military record; passport; school or employer ID; or health insurance card. If you do not have any papers to prove your identity, all you need is your Social Security Number. SSA will look your number up in their computer and ask you some questions to confirm your identity.
  • Proof of your immigration status, if needed.

But...do not wait to apply. You will have time to get this information to SSA after you apply. If there are things you cannot remember or find, SSA will help get the information you need.

Stay in touch with SSA & DDS.


  • If SSA cannot find you, your application for benefits may be denied.
  • Report address and phone changes to SSA and DDS and check in often. Free Community Voice Mail is available in greater Boston.
  • Give SSA and DDS a reliable mailing address such as a shelter, P.O. Box, or relative’s, friend’s or advocate’s address. . Give SSA and DDS the name, address and phone number of someone you trust who will be able to reach you, and permission to contact that person.

Help prove you are disabled

  • If DDS makes a doctor’s appointment for you, keep it. Ask your DDS examiner for free transportation if you need it.
  • If you do not have a doctor and want to find one, contact Health Care for the Homeless or a Community Health Center to find free medical care.
  • Be sure your doctors send your medical records to DDS.
  • Find an attorney or other advocate to help you with your claim.

Social Security Administration         800-772-1213

Disability Determination Services

Boston                     800-882-2040

Worcester                 800-551-5532

Health Care for Homeless (Boston)         617-414-7779

MA Community Health Centers         800-475-8455

Mayor’s Health Line             800-847-0710

Greater Boston Legal Services         617-371-1234

Mass. Justice Project (Legal Services)

Central MA                 508-831-9888

Western MA                 413-533-2660

Disability Law Center             617-723-8455


Mass. Coalition for the Homeless         617-423-9162

Tri-City Homeless Services             781-397-2097

Northeast MA

Project HOAP (Central MA)         508-860-1000

Homeless Services

Community Voice Mail (Boston)         617-248-6585

Dept. of Transitional Assistance         800-249-2007

(for welfare benefits)

Div. of Medical Assistance             800-841-2900

(for MassHealth)

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Other Resources

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
9am - 12pm and 1pm - 4pm