Mental Illness And Homelessness Essay Thesis

Mental Illness Among the Homeless

A man living on the streets of Philadelphia called himself Joe No Name. A researcher observed him regularly and tried to persuade him to get help. On one visit Joe “reached out and asked to touch his finger to see if he was real or part of the electric current in the wires above their heads” (Torrey 10). Next time you are walking down the streets of a large city, take a moment to notice all the people living on the streets. They make shelter out of cardboard boxes, keep warm on heating grates, and eat food out of dumpsters. Mental illness had a strong association with the homeless. Severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and manic-depressive illness affect many homeless people. Mental illness is the cause of the majority of men, women, and even children becoming homeless due to weak support systems, deinstitutionalization, employment barriers, complicated daily living, substance abuse, and the continuous fight with the police.

Homelessness can be characterized into two categories, benign and malignant. Benign homelessness is a relatively little hardship to the person being affected. This type of homelessness only lasts for a short period of time and does not recur often. It is reasonably easy to gain back a home and retain stability. Malignant homelessness, however, is a significant hardship. It lasts an extensive period of time or recurs in short intervals. Immense effort is needed to gain back a home but many attempts are often unsuccessful (Bingham, Green, and White 100). “According to the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Mental Illness, up to 600,000 Americans can be classified as homeless on any given night” (Brown 2). Approximately 30-40 percent are considered mentally ill. The percent between men and women is fairly distributed, men being 42 percent of the population and women being 48 percent (Isaac, and Armat 4-5). The amount of people considered mentally ill in the United States has drastically increased over time.

The number of public mental health hospitals in the United States has risen significantly over time. In 1830, only four mental health hospitals were in practice in the U.S., holding just under two hundred people. Rapid growth continued to occur and, in 1880 there were seventy-five public hospitals, treating 36,780 people. The number continued to climb and reached 150,157 people in 1904. Small towns and cities became overpopulated with mentally ill homeless. Almshouses or “poor houses” were built to shelter them and keep them from begging for food from others in their communities (Torrey 37- 39). Today there are twice as many homeless mentally ill people on streets and in shelters than in health institutions (Isaac and Armat 7). The main factor in the mentally ill becoming homeless is that they have weak social support systems.

Men and women who are considered mentally ill and homeless are generally single or are divorced. They have an increased likelihood of having a childhood history containing foster care, group home placement, or running away from home (Brown 2). This specific type of homelessness leaves them with no family support or structure and often face challenges alone. Without stability and people to back them up, these mentally ill people are often left on the streets. Deinstitutionalization was another major cause of the mentally ill becoming homeless.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that, “In 1955 almost 559,000 individuals were hospitalized in State mental health facilities; today there are fewer than 114,000” (3). The idea of deinstitutionalization was to release patients from the public mental health system and to get them living independently (Ibid). In many cases, however, lacking vital support can result in homelessness. The mentally ill homeless face additional burdens to those of regular homeless people.

Homeless people who are mentally ill usually cannot maintain steady employment. They have a difficult time upholding a position, and without a job they cannot keep a residence and are left on the streets or in a shelter. Their daily living is complicated with their finding a place to stay or something to eat. They may be so far into their illness that they do not know what they need to sustain good health. Many homeless people with a mental illness also associate with


Essay about Homelessness and mental illness

3520 WordsOct 5th, 201315 Pages


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Homelessness and Mental Illness
A housing policy can be thought of as the efforts put in by a given government to transform a housing market(s) for the purposes of achieving social objectives. In most cases, a housing policy is meant to ensure that the general population has access to a home that is affordable. For instance, the British Conservative/Liberal Democratic coalition’s housing policy is aimed at increasing the number of affordable housing units; fostering homeownership; making social housing flexible; tackling homelessness (especially for the…show more content…

Other housing needs for the mentally ill include specialized in- house primary care, health promotion programmes, open access mental services (accessible to all at any time, missed appointments are also tolerated), assertive management, street based service provision, holistic and generalist support apart from just clinical diagnosis, talking therapies and full access to mainstream services. Most importantly, the housed mentally ill persons have to be shielded from becoming homeless again. Such assurance that they will forever have a comfortable place to stay will relax their minds. This will go a long way in promoting their mental well being (Randall et al. 2006).
What the Government has done and is doing The most comprehensive government intervention dealing with homelessness and mental illness was first witnessed in 1990 when the Homeless Mentally Ill Initiative was launched by the UK Department of Health. This initiative was meant to identify and offer health services to the homeless mentally ill persons that were not under statutory health services. Specialist hostels were also funded so as to provide high level care for these persons. The Housing Corporation was also required to provide move on housing to these persons. The team that was appointed to undertake these tasks had agreed that home provision as well as mental health service provision were needed if the government was serious about dealing with homeless persons with mental health problems. This

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