The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

30. Can I get benefits if I am disabled and live in a group home?

If you live in a licensed group home for persons who are disabled or blind, you are eligible for SNAP benefits at the one-person benefit allotment, even if you share common meals at the home. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.240(B), 365.620. The group home must be licensed by the state as a community-based residential facility and serve no more than 16 residents at a time. 106 C.M.R. § 365.640.

You may be able to apply and manage your own SNAP benefits or the group home may decide to be your authorized representative. See Question 5 (Can someone else apply for me?). The group home must make this decision based on an individualized determination of your “physical and mental ability to handle your own affairs.” 106 C.M.R. § 365.620(A).

You cannot be forced to automatically turn over your benefits or forced to appoint the group home as your authorized representative. You also have the right to challenge their determination if you want to keep your own SNAP benefits. However, if you get prepared meals at the group home, they may ask you to contribute some of your SNAP benefits toward the cost of these meals. 

Since 2004, DTA has made a major effort to reach group home residents through the Department of Mental Health, Department of Developmental Services, and Mass. Commission for the Blind facilities. DTA has simplified the SNAP application and verification process. Group homes are also encouraged to identify a portion of the residential shelter costs for heating/cooling expenses in order to maximize benefits. If you are a residential facility provider, contact DTA about maximizing SNAP benefits for your residents.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If you leave the group home to live on your own in private or public housing, your SNAP benefits should still continue without interruption. Be sure to report the change in address, living situation and expenses. DTA should not require you to file a new application unless your certification period is ending.
  • If the group home insists that they become your authorized representative to receive your EBT card and purchase your food, and you do not agree to have the group home act as your SNAP representative, you have a right to challenge their decision. Contact an advocate.
  • “Sober houses” typically provide room and meals for adults who have substance abuse issues and may be homeless, transitioning from a treatment program and/or referred by a court or probation officer. Sober houses may be regulated at the local level but usually are not licensed or regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as drug or alcohol treatment programs. If you live in a “sober house” or other roomer/boarder situation that is not licensed by the Department of Public Health, you cannot be forced to turn over your EBT card or benefits without your written permission. If this has happened to you, contact an advocate. 
Additional Policy Guidance on Residents of Group Homes:
  • When group home indicates resident pays for heating or cooling expenses, resident entitled to heating/cooling SUA. Transitions Quality Corner (January 2011).
  • Detailed guidance on eligibility of DMR and DMH/DDS group home residents including the process for applying, designating an authorized representative, level of authorized rep’s authority to transact benefits. Field Operations (F.O.) Memo 2009-10, Q. 4 (Feb. 20, 2009), F.O. Memo 2004-41 (Oct. 8, 2004) and F.O. Memo 2004-15 (April 2, 2004).
  • Interagency agreement with DMH, DMR to designate 10% of residents' shelter costs as a heating expense, to leverage heating/cooling SUA. Transitions FYI (Sept. 2007).
  • Representative payee administrative fees charged for SSI or RSDI recipients should be treated as dependent care expenses. Transitions FYI (Sept. 2006).
  • Group home facility makes determination of which residents require authorized reps vs. receive own benefits, but facility cannot impose one method for all residents, must do individualized determinations. F.O. Memo 97-17 (Mar. 14, 1997).