There are many rumors surrounding people who are homeless in the US. It’s not unusual to hear someone say that it’s a life they’ve chosen or that all homeless people are mentally ill. Like the general population, a certain percentage of homeless people in the US struggle with mental health issues.
Just as it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate count of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the US, It’s equally challenging to know how many are dealing with mental health issues.
A 2015 assessment by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed that 140,000 or 25 percent of the homeless people counted were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. By comparison, the most recent statistics found that nearly 20 percent of adults in the US ( or almost 50 million Americans) are experiencing a mental illness, with nearly five percent experiencing a severe mental illness.
The Link Between Mental Illness and Homelessness
According to researchers, the connection between homelessness and mental illness is a complicated, two-way relationship. For example, individuals with mental illness may experience cognitive and behavioral problems that make it challenging for them to earn a stable income or to carry out daily activities that lead to stable housing.
In addition, untreated mental illness can cause people to self-medicate abusing alcohol and drugs, impacting their ability to maintain a steady job and shelter.
Other studies show that the trauma caused by homelessness may make it particularly challenging for men to admit that they’re suffering from mental health problems. In addition, time spent being homeless can be related to higher levels of substance abuse and psychiatric distress.
According to the most recent survey, there were 9,706 homeless people in Santa Clara County in 2019. A staggering 42 percent reported suffering from psychiatric or emotional conditions. In addition, Roughly 33 percent said they had post-traumatic stress disorder, affecting their housing stability or employment.
Homelessness Can Compound Mental Health Issues
Navigating the world with mental health disorders is difficult even with excellent medical care and a support system. Unfortunately, people with mental illness experiencing homelessness frequently don’t have those things. Often, homeless people are uninsured, resulting in them going undiagnosed or untreated. In addition, even when diagnosed, without secure shelter, they may be on the move, making it more difficult to maintain treatments.
Homelessness Children and Youth and Mental Health
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), youth experiencing homelessness have a higher risk of feeling depressed or experiencing trauma and violence than their housed counterparts. In addition, homeless school-age children and youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than students who live at home with a parent or guardian.
If You Need Assistance
If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and are dealing with mental health issues, there are available services.
- Santa Clara County Mental Health Services Mental Health
Call Center: 24-Hour 800-704-0900; Momentum for Mental Health: Main 408-260-4040; 438 North White Road: 408-254-6828 2001; The Alameda: 408-261-7777; 206 California Avenue, Palo Alto: 650-617-8340 (8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. M-F)
- LifeMoves | Julian Street Inn
Emergency and interim housing for adults working to overcome homelessness and severe mental illness: 546 W. Julian Street, San Jose, CA 95110, 408-271-0820
- NAMI Santa Clara County, (408) 453-0400
725 E. Santa Clara St. San Jose, CA 95112. Phone: 1.408.794.0564, Medical and Social Services for Homeless, Adult men & women with mental illness
If you are experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, or are experiencing food insecurity in Santa Clara County, California, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County offers homeless services and rent, utility, or food assistance.
The Countywide Shelter Hotline: (408) 278-6420 also provides resources to people currently experiencing homelessness. In addition, the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System at (408) 926-8885 can help if your housing situation is unstable or you’re at risk of becoming homeless.
We All Have the Power to Make a Difference
We can’t change that some people have a mental illness, but we can work together with kindness and compassion to help the thousands of people who find themselves homeless. Yes, it’s an enormous problem, but there are viable solutions.
With your support, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County can continue to help struggling families and individuals with dignity, compassion, and love. Everyone is deserving of our help. There are so many ways you can help us help those in need. There are multiple volunteer opportunities and several additional ways to support us. Your donations of cash, or even a car, can make a significant difference in the life of someone experiencing homelessness.