Homelessness Among Those with Mental Illness

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According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is imperative that a persons physiological needs are met first and foremost. These basic needs include essentials such as food, water, clothing and shelter. If these are not met, other needs such as safety, security, belonging, and esteem are unattainable. These hierarchy of needs are not excluded from those who suffer from mental illnesses. Many North American cities are facing an increasing problem with homelessness. Unfortunately nearly one-third of homeless people in the US have severe mental illness (Stuart, 2009, p. 633). These include illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and/or bipolar affective disorder (Stergiopoulos, et al., 2008, p. 62). Consequently, homeless individuals are at increased risk of contracting medical illnesses, such as tuberculosis or HIV, or becoming a victim of assault or rape. (Forchuck, et al., 2008, p. 570). This is why it is critical for psychiatric facilities to establish programs which assist in placing mentally ill patients in safe and affordable shelter.

Mental illness has long been identified as a risk factor for homelessness and unstable housing (Forchuck, et al. 2008, p. 570). Resources for this population is scarce, resulting in homeless people to rely on emergency department visits, or inpatient hospitalizations for care (Stergiopoulos, et al., 2008, p. 62). Currently, mental health facilities have transitioned to deinstitutionalization, which contribute to this problem. Shorter hospital stays and lack of availability within the facilities can sometimes cause speedy discharge of psychiatrically stable patients, even if appropriate housing has not been obtained (Forchuck, et al. 2008, p 571.). Tragically, this can result in those with mental illness to turn to the streets and to fall victim to sexual assault, substance abuse, and other unsafe occupations to establish or maintain housing (Tracy, et al. 2007, p. 254).

One article describes the...
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