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Am I eligible for SNAP if I live in a hospital, school, or other institution?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

Residents of institutions that provide residents with a majority of meals (e.g. more than half) do not qualify for SNAP benefits. Institutions include hospitals, boarding schools, nursing homes, mental health facilities, and prisons. 106 C.M.R § 361.240(A) and (B). Children placed in foster care or youth services are also not SNAP eligible if their absence from the home will last more than 30 days. See What if I am caring for a foster child or disabled foster adult?.

However, there are a number of exceptions that permit residents of certain institutions to receive SNAP. 106 C.M.R.§ 361.240(B). You may still be eligible for SNAP if you live in the following settings:

  • federally subsidized housing for the elderly,
  • group homes that serve persons with disabilities and have less than 16 residents,
  • shelters for homeless individuals or families and shelters for victims of domestic violence,
  • teen parent living programs. The teen program may act as your authorized representative and use your benefits for group meals or may let you use some or all of the benefits separately, see 106 C.M.R. § 365.620(B), or
  • drug or alcohol treatment centers (public or nonprofit). The center will require you to make them an authorized representative during your stay. 106 C.M.R. § 365.610.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If you are sentenced by a court to “home detention” (for example, you wear an electronic or prison bracelet at home), you are not jailed or incarcerated.
  • If you move from a live in drug/alcohol treatment center or teen living program, you should receive your SNAP benefits directly once you move into a permanent residence. The residential program should immediately report the change of address to DTA to ensure your SNAP benefits continue if you are still SNAP eligible.
Additional Guidance
  • The program fee for individuals living in certain temporary housing including sober houses, transitional living programs and Teen Parent Programs generally not considered “shelter expenses” for SNAP.  If shelter costs are claimed, verification must be submitted that includes amount paid for shelter.. PPER Email 2015-9 (Feb 6, 2015)
  • Battered woman who moves to DV shelter can receive own SNAP benefits even if still on SNAP grant of abuser. Transitions Hotline Q &A (May 2012)
  • Children home on summer break are eligible for benefits, but not while at school. Transitions Hotline Q&A (July 2006)
  • Receipt of school meal plan at college does not disqualify student unless meal plan provides majority of meals. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Nov. 2006)
  • Home detention (electronic bracelet) does not render an applicant ineligible. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Aug. 2001)
  • Social Security or other income received for a child in an institution is not countable to rest of household. Transitions Hotline Q&A (June 2000).

Show DTA Policy Guidance