Clarification of definition of “own home” for In-Home Supportive Services eligibility

The CDSS has provided clarification regarding the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program definition of “own home” as it relates to alternative living arrangements and IHSS eligibility.  Welfare and Institutions Code Section 12300(a) defines “own home” as “homes or abodes of their own choosing.”  Homeless applicants and recipients often do not have a permanent dwelling that can be viewed as their “own home” because they do not have permanent housing.  However, based on new Welfare and Institutions Code Section 18999.8, the definition of “own home” has been reevaluated to include certain alternative living arrangements.  County staff will evaluate each alternative living arrangement to ensure that authorized services can be delivered in a safe manner considering necessary universal precautions.  While deciding if a location will be eligible, the county should provide all necessary support to the applicant or recipient so that they may remain in the alternative living arrangement or transitional housing and be able to receive IHSS. 

An RV may meet the definition of an “own home” if utilities needed to provide authorized IHSS in a safe manner are available, and the RV can be situated in a single location for a “period of time” sufficient to assess the individuals needs and deliver those authorized services to the recipient.  Such locations include a campground, RV park or other private property where the RV has been authorized to stay for a period of time.  

IHSS recipients living in remote or rural areas, including Native American tribal lands, would be eligible for IHSS even without local utilities services if they have access to alternate resources. In these situations, county social workers should evaluate the specific circumstances of the recipient’s dwelling. 

A homeless shelter could be considered an “own home” if the management of the homeless shelter allows the IHSS recipient to remain there for a “period of time” and allows IHSS staff to perform an IHSS assessment and the IHSS provider to be present in the shelter to provide needed services. An IHSS recipient who moves into the residence of a family member or friend may be considered to be living in his/her “own home” if the family member allows the recipient to remain in the home for a specified “period of time.” Recipients are responsible for notifying the county IHSS office whenever there is a “substantive change in living arrangements.” which would require a reassessment.

If a recipient cannot be located, county IHSS staff should make a good faith effort to communicate with the recipient, including making telephone calls to all known recipient numbers, direct mail, email, in-home visits, and contact with known family or friends of the recipient. All attempts should be documented, and copies of returned mail should be maintained in the recipients case file. After the county staff has attempted to contact the recipient, the county may terminate the case and send a Notice of Action to the recipient’s last known address ten days prior to the termination date of the case.

Certain extraordinary situations may cause an IHSS to lose access to his/her home, but the IHSS recipient can continue to receive IHSS while living in a temporary “alternative living arrangement.” Emergency situations such as these should be considered an “unexpected extraordinary” change in circumstance. County social workers may perform a reassessment at the emergency shelter to determine if a temporary adjustment in the authorized weekly hours of a recipient is necessary. If the recipient is moved from the emergency shelter into temporary housing, the social worker must assess the temporary housing as well. If local utility services have not yet been re-established, the county social worker will need to evaluate the alternative resources to determine if the recipient is still allowed to receive his/her authorized services. 

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 18999.8 authorizes counties to create homeless adult and family interdisciplinary teams to assess homeless individual’s living accommodations and service needs.  Counties that have multidisciplinary teams are developing protocols to assist in transitioning homeless individuals to transition to permanent housing. One of the goals of multidisciplinary teams is to move homeless individuals who need IHSS to a safe and stable living situation where they can receive authorized services.  IHSS social workers should provide all adequate referrals to assist the applicant or recipient in arranging for a safe living environment before denying an IHSS applicant or terminating an IHSS recipient for not meeting the definition of “own home.”  (ACIN I-19-20, February 25, 2020.)