Homelessness and Mental Health

“Everyone in need must have access to high quality, effective and affordable mental health services…too often our mental health problems are left to play themselves out…in the streets, homeless centres and prisons.” David Satcher

The connection between homelessness and mental illness is presented as a complicated, two-way relationship. As a result, in dealing with the problem of homelessness, many cities have set up emergency shelters that provide essential services, but only at select times of the day or night. 

Most people with mental illness find themselves homeless as a result of poverty and lack of low-income housing. In addition, systematic homelessness is traumatic and related to higher psychiatric stress, addictions, and victimization.

Poverty, Isolation, and Vulnerability

People with mental health issues are more susceptible to three main factors: poverty, isolation and person vulnerability. They have problems finding gainful employment and tend to be in poorer health. 

Delusional thinking contributes to isolation and withdrawal, resulting in less contact with family and friends. They are often released from hospitals and jails without proper community supports in place and thus left in a vulnerable state.

According to the Canadian Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, “20-25% of people experiencing homelessness suffer from concurrent disorders (severe mental illness and addictions).”

This can lead to addiction such as alcohol and drug abuse, reinforcing the connection between health and homelessness.

While community-based mental health services play a vital role, we can reduce homelessness if those suffering from mental illness have access to supportive housing.

The needs of people experiencing homelessness are similar to everyone else: physical safety, education, transportation, affordable housing, and medical treatment.

Providing safe, stable, and low-cost housing is fundamental in stabilizing mental health and helping individuals on their journey to recovery.

Our next blog will address the concept of Supportive Living housing...

#homelessness #housing #support #mentalhealth

 

Written by Vishal Chityal, Director, SupportiveLiving.ca