Cognitive Impairment

Though often conflated, mental illness and cognitive impairment are distinct issues, both of which can increase significantly a person’s level of risk for becoming or remaining homeless. Cognitive impairments can significantly affect an individual’s ability to obtain and maintain stable housing, and to benefit from supportive services. Deficits in a person’s memory, perception, judgment, planning, and speech can result in poor problem-solving and social skills, and in his/her inability to make sound decisions.

The behaviors resulting from cognitive impairments are largely unintentional, but they are often poorly understood by providers and others, and are sometimes mistaken for antisocial or disruptive behavior. For example, landlords sometimes deny housing to people with cognitive impairments because their actions and decisions may be difficult to understand. People with cognitive impairments who do obtain housing are particularly vulnerable to eviction, because these impairments leave them unable to pay for rent and utilities, or to maintain their residences appropriately.1

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