Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week:
The connection between homelessness and mental illness
In light of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we want to start a larger conversation about homelessness, its causes and how we can start to solve this growing problem. Homelessness can be caused by a number of factors including unemployment, a lack of affordable housing and mental illness.
When people talk about homelessness, there tends to be a stigma associated with it. While there are many different reasons for an individual to become homeless, one of the leading causes can be explained by mental illness. According to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report of 2017, an estimated 553,742 people experienced homelessness on a single night, and conservative estimates say that 25% of homeless individuals are suffering from serious mental illness.
The 2017 Census report estimates that on any given night in 2017, 3,916 individuals experienced homelessness in South Carolina. This statistic coupled with the fact that nearly 636,000 South Carolinian adults are struggling with a mental illness displays not only the need for homelessness prevention, but also more attention those suffering from a mental illness.
In order to begin to solve these growing problems, adults suffering from mental illness need support and encouragement from their communities. Helping those diagnosed with a mental illness find support and resources to grow is an essential part in preventing homelessness. We can combat the problem of homelessness in a number of ways including:
· Housing – providing a safe and secure place to live
· Services – health services, employment and education and other support
· Connection – meaningful social connections to create a sense of community
· Prevention – understanding who is at risk, and how to help
Aside from housing and health services, employment is an essential part of solving the issue of homelessness. A job provides income, social connection, a sense of purpose and much more. The ability to support oneself and feel a sense of purpose can oftentimes only be obtained through employment. A job gives you a place to go, a way to define yourself and connection to your community.
At Work In Progress, we play a role in this step of problem solving by giving individuals with a mental illness diagnosis the skills and means to obtain and retain employment. We offer job development training and coaching, interview skills, and ongoing support to individuals referred to our services.