Helping The Homeless With Mental Illnesses. Good Or Corrosive For Today's Society?

by ahymes3562 on March 21, 2014 - 1:36pm


In the article , More than shelter , by Michael Price, we are introduced to the vicious cycle of homelessness and severe mental illness. The article covers what it takes for persons with severe mental illness to get back off their feet should they become homeless. Some facts that were brought up included that 16 percent of those who were homeless possessed some sort of mental illness, and in certain big cities, it can excell up to 35 percent.  Another key issue brought up was based off an interview where all out of 17  of those interviewed claimed that they were being discriminated against by shelter programs because of their illness.  The article then explains how those who are looking for a shelter want to be treated normally but because of their disease (s) they are treated like children. To escape the situation, the article suggests that if these particular individuals use drugs or alcohol, they are advised to kick that habit and join behavioral programs that can serve as a safety net for those abusers. The article also makes a case for getting these particular people into homes. In a study done by a separate entity, they determined that putting these people into a permanent structure can help a city save money that it otherwise would need to have spent on putting them through temporary housing and a slough of other programs. It then closes out by discussing how some weight can be placed on the individual to stay committed to their programs so that they could get back off their feet.


The main purpose of this article is to drive home the fact that just because there are some who are homeless that have mental illnesses, doesn’t mean they should be treated differently from others. If we can take what the writer is saying seriously, we’re opened up to notion of discrimination still being alive and well in our society. Although it was only 17 people interviewed, if all 17 claimed to be discriminated against, that still raises a problem and questions about all others who have mental illnesses that have NOT been interviewed. In the case of talking about kicking drug use, I believe the writer layed down some concrete options for those to get help, and to stop themselves from being kicked out of the shelters they were living in. I agree some weight needs to be placed on the individual because the programs can only do so much. Another point that was being driven home the whole time was that the ones with illnesses might have their bumps in the road (housing markets are not very sturdy as pointed out in the article, and they may have relapses in their drug uses) but their are programs their to help. It’s just a matter of getting these places to treat them with the same respect and privileges as the ones who are homeless without mental illnesses. Although the article is outdated by a few years, it still brings up the issue of getting those who are homeless with mental issues the help they need and deserve, which is still an issue today. I believe it would help states significantly (as pointed out in the earlier study) to give these people full support. Whether or not that day comes, we’ll just have to believe that our states are trying their best.

Price, Michael (2009) More Than Shelter.  40, 58.


I'd like to begin by affirming that your article is great. It summarizes with detail this particular issue at hand with relevant statistics and intelligent ideas. As you mentioned, even though only a minority of homeless people suffer from mental illness, there is still something that has to be done to support them because they are at risk of many dramatic situations. For instance, last month in Montreal there was this very unfortunate story that became popular about a mentally ill homeless man who was shot dead by Montreal police because he was dangerously wielding a hammer around people. This is just an example that shows how dramatic the ending can be for those in the streets suffering from mental diseases. Therefore, we have to find a solution so that those kinds of situation do not happen again to keep everyone safe.

If you want to know more about this story, here's a link:

Your article is well written and detailed; the summary you provided was great! I enjoyed it. It's a sad issue that happens a lot to these homeless individuals. I find it very unfair how shelters will reject them because they have an illness and might act a different way. Clearly society should make excepts for these people because they cannot help but act such a way if no one is able to help them with their particular mental illness. They have no money for help and shelters are rejecting them, such a horrible thing to hear about. It’s true that getting these individuals housing and helping them would lower the cost of money, rather than always finding them temporary housing, which would cost way more. In Montreal we have an organization called "Centre Bienvenue” and they help individuals with mental illnesses, without a cost. They are a non profit organization helping these mentally ill individuals by supporting them, giving them the help they need and to improve their quality of life. They have skilled volunteer workers who work with these individuals in need. It's really great organization that helps these individuals.

This is the link to the Organization for further information :

The content of your article is very strong and opens lots of doors for discussion. I agree that homeless people deserve respect and should not be discriminated because of their living conditions. They deserve to be treated like a human being, which is what they are after all. A very sad story about a mentally ill homeless man happened recently here in Montreal, where he was shot by police before anyone tried to at least subdue him. You might find this interesting, because the article talks about how the law is blind to the reality of mental illness and how they are not taught to sympathize with the people suffering from it: Great writing and great expression of your opinions in this piece!

I really enjoy your choice of article because I feel as though the stigma placed around mental health issues is a very prevalent problem in today’s society. As someone with friends and family members who have mental illnesses, it’s disconcerting to see just how society treats these people. They are often treated as though they are dangerous when, in reality, they are not. For people who are homeless, I think this stigma can hinder what is already a difficult battle to regain stability in the world. In the end, as you stated, getting these people help is paramount, not only on the issue of their homelessness but also with getting them the attention they may need for their mental issues.

I like that in addition to providing us a great summary of this article, you give us your opinion about what you read. I do agree with your many of your affirmation such as the need to provide more help and support to homeless people with mental illnesses. Here is a great article about how, in Montreal, we also struggle with this issue: There is interesting numbers to look at and examples of what our government tries to do to fulfill the need of adequate services.

First of all, I think this is a great issue to look at, it really is present in our society. However, a link to the article would have been useful! My part-time job is as a cashier/stockboy in a pharmacy in a relatively low-income neighborhood. We often have people with a veritable cornucopia of mental illnesses come to the pharmacy. On a daily basis, we deal with schizophrenics, depressed people and grown ups who act like children. However, not all of them show signs of their problems at first glance and often our new employees will look at them weird and just assume they are mean, arrogant or ignorant. Since we know what pills they take, we also know what problems they have, and we have to explain to our new employees how to deal with these people. Not everyone has the luxury of knowing exactly what is wrong with someone, and we often discriminate against people with mental illness unknowingly. Here in Montreal, thankfully we have some programs in place for homeless people with mental illness.

I really enjoyed reading your article and think it’s is very well written. I think the topic of homelessness is an excellent topic to study as it is indeed a very real issue and social fact in which many of us I feel like to ignore as it can be a very uncomfortable topic. However, often we fail to realize the fact you mentioned of there being some homeless individuals with mental illnesses. I agree with you when you mention those who are homeless should be able to receive services to help them get back on their feet. Regardless of if someone is homeless or not though I agree that they should not be treated any differently, especially when they do have a mental illness. The ideas you presented can be seen in Emile Durkheim’s idea of positive solidarity in that individuals within this category tend to come together creating a collective consciousness crating a solidarity mechanical body. By coming together and helping each other we can show them that they are an important part of society and maybe even help those who feel they deserve to be treated differently really have the wrong idea in mind. I like your statement that it is a matter of getting them help from places who are supposed to help them as it is so true and yet seems to be so difficult when in reality it really shouldn't be. The main thing Durkheim mentions is that once this solidarity is put into practice our own personality vanishes and we are able to be a collective life rather than ourselves.
Great job!

Your post immediately piqued my interest, so much so that I sought out Michael Price's original article appearing in The Monitor; for those interested in reading further, it may be found here: I wholeheartedly agree with you that it's in the states' best interest (and thus, our own) to provide suitable support for the mentally ill; we part company only in your final comment: “Whether or not that day comes, we’ll just have to believe that our states are trying their best...” The unfortunate truth is that simply isn't so.
Two decades ago a drunk driver in an 18 wheeler crashed into my grandmother and four of my mother's siblings, killing my little aunt Brigid, age 5, and my youngest uncle Ryan, who was only 8yo at the time. My grandmother was “lucky” enough to survive, but she has endured numerous surgeries and hospitalizations, many of which were/are psychiatric in nature. You see, due to my grandmother's profound closed brain injury, she has incurred short term memory loss, which means she remains in wrought in grief, forever fresh and crippling, due to the tragic and incomprehensible loss of her youngest children. Because of that, I spent my childhood visiting my grandmother on a round-robin tour of every psychiatric unit in Rochester, including Genesee Hospital's, which has since closed. One facet of those rounds that was particularly notable: I saw many of the same patients again and again. Why? Because Medicaid and many other insurances only allows for thirty days of inpatient treatment, if that, during which patients are “stabilized” as much as possible, before they are discharged back out onto the street, bottles of medications in hand. For some patients, that short stint of inpatient treatment is enough; for those with chronic and/or debilitating mental illness, however, it is only a matter of time before those patients return, if they are not incarcerated and/or die before readmittance.
In addition to those experiences in the civilian sector, I have also frequented the VA Medical Centers in our area because my mother is a veteran and considers herself fortunate enough to be able to access healthcare there....that is, when she can get an appointment. The harsh reality is that we have been at war as long as I've been alive (i.e. 20 years), and the system is overwhelmed; there are not enough appointments available, both mental health and otherwise, for our nation's most deserving. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans fact sheet that may be found here:, at least 20% of all male homeless and 12% of all homeless are veterans. The NCHV estimates that at least 50% of those are suffering from a serious mental illness and 70% have substance abuse problems.
How did our country get in such a state? Last year Mother Jones Magazine published an excellent explanatory time line that may be accessed here:
In 1955, there were 560,000 patients house in our country's psychiatric hospitals. In order to cull those numbers of the least impaired, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act to resettle patients back into society, but because of the cost of the Vietnam War (i.e. 1965-1975), the program was not adequately funded, thus patients were indeed deinstitutionalized en masse without the critical services in place to support them. In 1977, the time line indicates that there were only 650 mental health centers countrywide to serve an estimated 1.9 million mentally ill. In response to that, President Jimmy Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act which was supposed to restructure community service access, but then President Reagan came along in 1981 and cut Federal mental-health spending by 30%, and by 1985 Federal funding dropped to encompass only 11% of community mental-health agency budgets. By 2004, it was estimated that at least 16% of the total prison and jail inmates were seriously mentally ill, roughly 320,000 people. That same year, there were only 100,000 psychiatric beds in public and private hospitals. That meant that there were three times as many seriously mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in hospitals. Fast forward to 2009 and again, because of war costs, states cut $4.35 billion (yes, you read that right...BILLION!) in public mental-health spending over the next three years, the largest reduction in funding since deinstitutionalization. Where does that leave us? Well, three years ago, there were only 43,000 psychiatric beds countrywide. That might sound impressive until you break that number down and realize that it amounts to only 14 beds per 100,000 people, the same ratio that served our mental ill back in 1850.
The shocking and devastating reality is that neither our Federal government nor our State governments are doing their “best”, and we would be incredibly foolish to rest easy on such platitudes. The ugly truth is that war is big business, and prisons-for-profit is one of nation's fastest growing economies. The mentally ill, as well as the poor and disenfranchised, are easy prey, used in unthinkable ways to fill the pocketbooks of the rich and/or well-connected. As the disparities between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' grow ever greater, our salvation becomes dependent upon us to educate ourselves, to take personal responsibly for discerning our own truth, no matter how ugly that truth may be.

I want to begin by clarifying that I don't think any person should be discriminated against based on something they cannot control. That is obvious. However, I also don't think any one group of people should be treated preferentially or better in any way because of something they cannot control. What I mean by this, is that the mentally ill should not be given any more opportunities to "get back on their feet" as an able minded person. I won't try to say that discrimination doesn't exist, but perhaps it seems like the mentally ill are struggling more because of their illnesses, and that is why more of them remain homeless. I don't think it is fair to give any more help to homeless individuals who happen to be mentally ill than to homeless individuals who are not. I am a full supporter of "survival of the fittest", therefore if two individuals cannot make it with the same amount of help, then it was not meant to be.

I'm not heartless, though. If I can give help, I do. Unfortunately we live in a society that forces us to act selfishly. The reality is that there are several able minded and able bodied people out there who are struggling just as much as the mentally and physically handicapped and there is no reason that the latter should receive any more help than the former. To give some personal perspective, I grew up in a very poor household filled with 11 fully able bodied and able minded people. It was very difficult for my family because we received little to no help from the government or any sort of charities because, according to them, we should have been able to care for ourselves. One of my cousins, who has cerebral palsy, lives in a very comfortable household and is not required to work, even though he perfectly capable as of right now. He gets a large amount of aid from the government and several non profit organizations. He has never worked a day in his life, and yet gets to live more comfortable than my hardworking family? It doesn't seem fair to me.

Hi! Great title, it captures our attention! As you mentioned above, homelessness is usually tied with mental health issues. And homelessness is present all over the world. I haven't looked at what other countries are doing, but in Montreal the CHUM Department of Psychiatry and The Old Brewery Mission opened a new place where homeless men could go to receive help for their mental illnesses. The project has been working for a while and is doing well! We are also trying to make health care more accessible to the homeless to improve their lifestyle! Altogether I am proud to live in a city that cares for their homeless and that is working hard to improve their situation in Montreal.

P.S.Keep up the good writing! And if the topic still interests you, check out this link about what I wrote:

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