People with special needs (ex: intellectual, physical, and mental disabilities), often find themselves left in the dust after high school. Few programs are available for people with special needs post-graduation, leaving many to spend their days away at home with caregivers or loved ones. While these may be the circumstances for some amount of time, what happens after the passing of the caregiver? People with special needs are at risk of becoming homeless.
Securing stable employment is a vital step in breaking the cycle of homelessness. However, many individuals experiencing homelessness find themselves at a disadvantage when looking for and applying to jobs. Job applications can be a roadblock, as they can require a permanent address, contact info, and other things that someone facing homelessness does not have access to. Additionally, unhoused individuals struggle to take care of themselves, as the lack a variety of basic health and hygiene resources. The inability to regularly care for oneself puts these individuals at risk of developing illnesses that limit one’s ability to work.
There is a clear link between psychiatric disorders and homelessness. Homelessness has been linked to poor mental health and may trigger or exacerbate certain mental disorders. Furthermore, mental illness has been identified as a risk factor for homelessness. There are two ends to this issue – how mental illness can contribute to homelessness, and how homelessness can trigger mental illness.
Homelessness is not a new issue, yet it is not receiving enough attention for the general public and lawmakers. As of January 2019, approximately 568,000 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. This was an increase of 15,000 people from 2018. In 2020, this number rose to 580,000. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, two trends are primarily responsible for this national rise: a growing shortage of affordable rental properties and a simultaneous increase in poverty. These two factors, in combination with persistent inflation, contribute to the massive homelessness crisis seen today. Other factors that can lead to homelessness are substance abuse, escaping domestic violence, disabilities, and mental health.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20-25% of Americans who are experiencing homelessness suffer from a severe mental illness, whereas only 6% of those who are not homeless have a severe mental illness. The relationship between mental health and homelessness is complicated and a two-way system. People who struggle with severe mental illness may find it difficult to uphold tasks that allow them to maintain a steady income and afford housing. Nevertheless, The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation states, “individuals with mental illnesses often find themselves homeless primarily as the result of poverty and a lack of low-income housing.” Furthermore, they state that “mental illness and homelessness can lead to […] increased levels of alcohol and drug abuse and violent victimization.” While homelessness is commonly recognized as a lack of basic necessities for living, people may overlook how detrimental homelessness can be to one’s mental health.
Contrary to popular belief, school shouldn’t suck. Education is one of many pathways that can lead individuals to stable and successful lives. Negative experiences that can occur in school often deter kids from wanting to partake in it, like bullying. Bullying sucks. That’s a known fact. However, like most issues in our overgeneralizing society, it’s worth looking into how bullying affects students from different backgrounds, such as those who are unhoused.
Approximately 2.5 million children in America face homelessness each year; that is 1 in 30 children. These children suffer physically, mentally, and often struggle as adults if they are not helped. It is fundamental that we support these children in order to give them a fair chance at success and happiness.
Homelessness is a very traumatizing event that an individual may experience. Nowadays, the odds of someone facing some sort of mental illness are not uncommon. When one isn’t homeless, they are better equipped to seek help in order to help themselves. But do mental illness and homelessness correlate or affect the other?
According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, more than 1.3 million children experience homelessness each year, with families making up 40% of those experiencing homelessness in the United States. Many of these families and children previously experienced trauma before becoming homeless. They can also be more likely to experience cycles of trauma. To illustrate, children undergoing homelessness are more likely to be sick and hungry, face learning disabilities, and experience major mental disorders than their housed children counterparts.