Stop the Insanity
“No vision haunts America’s conscience more then the sight of the street people….The irrationality and anguish that grip so many of these individuals leap out during any encounter, whether in Washington or Albuquerque.”
- US Senator Pete Domenici, 1972-2009
People who live at poverty level and have mental disorders are more likely to become homeless. Unfortunately, police and emergency personnel are not always trained to evaluate mental illness. Hospitals do not treat homeless people for underlying conditions such as mental illness. Shelters, temporary and transitional housing staff do not do an adequate job of administering and monitoring medication for those residents that have been diagnosed with a mental disorder. The lack of resources and training to treat and diagnose the mentally ill creates a cycle of homelessness.
In the United States of America there are a disproportionate number of people suffering from mental illness who are homeless. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated psychiatric illness constitute one-third, or between 150,000 and 200,000 people, of the estimated 744,000 homeless population.(1) Fred Osher, MD., writes – “Today, few people with serious mental illness, homeless or not require institutionalization. Advances in treatment have allowed the restoration of health and productivity to almost all who access good care. Unfortunately the vast majority of homeless people do not have access to good care.” (2) This cycle needs to be broken and the most effective way of doing that is by getting homeless people who have mental illnesses evaluated and treated so they return to an active role in their lives and in society.
Many homeless people are unable to recognize their own symptoms and do not have a network of individuals (family, co-workers, health care providers) who could help with diagnosis, thus they do not even realize they have a problem. The Treatment Advocacy Center also states that at any given time there are approximately twice as many people with untreated sever psychiatric illnesses living on America’s streets then are receiving care in hospitals. (3) Those who have the most contact with homeless people such as police, emergency personal, hospital workers, and those working in shelters and transitional housing units do not have the training needed to recognize mental illness. As a result people do not get treated and thus the cycle of mental illness and homelessness continues.
The majority of people with mental disorders are homeless as a direct result of those disorders. Untreated mental illness pushes people away from family and friends as well as outside help. It also hinders ones ability to function in day to day situations. According to The Homeless “Housing programs are complex, competitive and difficult to access for people with mental illness, especially those with a dual diagnosis.” (4) By simply evaluating the people applying...