Statistics show that in the United States nearly 5% of us have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness. Stats also show that in the US on one night there can be as many as a half million homeless people and nearly 45% of them have some form of mental illness. That’s almost half! An amazing statistic when you see it.
Affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders are among the most common types of mental illness in the homeless population. Being homeless and living with a mental disorder is a complicated relationship. The disorder may present certain cognitive issues or behavior problems that make working at a job, engaging in social settings, or completing daily living skills difficult if not impossible. Mostly, those individuals living with mental health disorders find themselves homeless due to poverty and no access to low-income housing. In Wisconsin, a person who receives Supplemental Social Security Income gets less than $1000 per month from the Federal government and less than $200 from the state of Wisconsin. Even at a maximum of $1200 per month, housing assistance waiting lists are long or non-existent. Subsidized apartments have waitlists that years long. Rent controlled apartments have “low rent” options that are now starting at $800-$1000 per month leaving the individual little to live on once rent is paid. And even those options are few and far between.
Being homeless in addition to living with a mental illness can lead to drug and alcohol use and/or addiction and the risk of being a victim of a violent crime. It can also lead to an increase in contact with police and possible incarceration.
Though there are many services to treat mental illness and addiction and even those that offer help with homelessness, it is not enough to treat each part separately. The burden of being homeless can and does exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness and without adequate, safe, and long-term housing, the individual is likely to continue to feel marginalized, unwell, and disenfranchised. He or she will remain untreated because without a home – a base – a place to belong – there is no place to start to heal.
Kenosha Human Development Services offers a wide variety of assistance services for those who are currently homeless. Our Rapid Rehousing Program can assist those in immediate need and our Homeless Outreach Worker is always in the community seeking those who need us most. We network with other community agencies like Women and Children’s Horizons and the Shalom Center to ensure that those we serve are getting the best possible service to meet their needs. There is no wrong door to our homeless services. Once we meet you and understand your needs, we can assist you in getting you the mental health assistance you may need as well. We are here to help!