Impact on Mental Health

People living with mental health problems and disorders are more susceptible to three key factors that can lead to homelessness: poverty, disaffiliation, and personal vulnerability. Certain disorders can limit individuals' capacity to sustain employment, and as a result they have very little income. Behavioral issues may lead them to withdraw from friends, family and other people, creating a vaccuum of support and fewer coping resources in times of trouble. Mental illness can also impair a person’s ability to be resilient and resourceful; it can cloud thinking and impair judgment. For all these reasons, people with mental illness are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness. 

Homelessness, in turn, amplifies poor mental health. The stress of experiencing homelessness may exacerbate previous mental illness and encourage anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness and substance use. The needs of people experiencing homelessness with mental illnesses are similar to those without mental illnesses: physical safety, education, transportation, affordable housing, and affordable medical/dental treatment. When providing care to those experiencing homelessness, it is essential to create a non-threatening and supportive atmosphere, address basic needs (e.g. food and shelter), and provide accessible care.1