Mental Illnesses and Homelessness

Consider these statistics on homeless individuals:

  • 20–25 percent of homeless individuals suffer from serious mental illnesses, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • 66 percent of homeless individuals are diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, mental illness or both, according to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers.
  • 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness, and 46 percent live with severe mental illness, substance abuse disorders or both, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Some experts believe that these numbers might be even higher if it were possible to include those who have never been diagnosed.

Serious mental health issues are significant barriers that can stop homeless individuals from accessing support that would help them end their own homelessness.

Individuals with mental illnesses, particularly those also struggling with substance abuse, have additional barriers to locating housing. Some barriers come from:

  • Symptoms of their illnesses such as paranoia, inability to concentrate and resistance to treatment
  • The stigma and fear attached to mental illness

What’s more, people hospitalized for treatment often lose their benefits, their housing or both, and have trouble arranging for reinstatement. And their work and credit histories may be nonexistent.

Because of these issues, serving homeless individuals who struggle with serious mental health issues has become a significant part of our mission at PLACES.