Mental illness and homelessness

Those experiencing homelessness often experience mental illness at a higher rate than those housed

Written by Wellspring and Women’s Shelter Case Manager Courtney Mabie

St. John's Ministries staff and community partners help those experiencing homelessness and untreated mental illness conditions.

The implications of mental illness are felt by millions and millions of Americans daily. Those experiencing homelessness often find themselves in a delicate tango with the struggles of mental illness upon them. Mental health and homelessness oftentimes can be a two-way street. On one hand, mental illness leads to an individual’s homelessness. It can be because of debilitating cognitive and behavioral effects. That makes it difficult to carry out daily activities in ways that support stable housing. On the other hand, homelessness in itself is a traumatic event. It can lead those experiencing it to develop anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses.

During the 2022-23 shelter season, 44 percent of guests at St John’s Ministries self-reported a mental health disorder. A vulnerability assessment completed on those experiencing homelessness cited eye-shocking data. In America, 78 percent of unsheltered people experience a mental health condition (25 percent more compared to sheltered counterparts).

St. John’s Ministries is fortunate to partner with several mental health resources in the community. One resource is New Community Clinic, which has a mental health expert. The come to the Micah Center and/or Wellspring twice a week to connect with guests experiencing mental illnesses.

James, a mental health partner from New Community Clinic treats guests weekly at St. John’s Ministries. He said, “The biggest thing with those experiencing homelessness versus those with homes is that homeless individuals either can’t or struggle to meet their own basic needs. If you can’t meet your own basic needs, how are you then expected to work on your mental health.” He often sees differences in working with those experiencing homelessness and mental illness, versus those housed,

Oftentimes, guests are simply in survival mode, trying to make it through the day so they can see tomorrow.

Jordan, an AODA (Alcohol or Other Drug Abuse) and Homeless Outreach Case Manager with Brown County Community Treatment Center helps guests in survival mode. She says, “It’s harder for the homeless population to treat their mental health because they don’t know where they are going to stay at night. So, they aren’t worried about taking medications or making it to doctor appointments.”

Staff at St John’s Ministries work hard to meet the basic needs of all individuals who present at our doors. We strive to give them a higher chance of succeeding in their mental health journey. Community partnerships, allow us to connect guests experiencing homelessness with resources to help restore hope. The hope their mental illness has taken.

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