People with mental illness are at a greater risk of homelessness. They are more susceptible to the three main factors that can lead to homelessness: poverty, disaffiliation and personal vulnerability.
Those with mental illness often lack the capacity to sustain employment and risk little or no income. At the same time, delusional thinking may lead them to withdraw from friends, family and other people. This loss of support leaves them with fewer coping resources in times of trouble. Mental illness can also impair a person’s ability to be resilient and resourceful; it can cloud thinking and impair judgment.
Homelessness, in turn, amplifies poor mental health:
30-35% of those experiencing homelessness have mental illnesses.
20-25% of people experiencing homelessness suffer from
concurrent disorders (severe mental illness and addictions).
The stress of experiencing homelessness may exacerbate previous mental illness and encourage anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness and substance use. The needs of people experiencing homelessness with mental illnesses are similar to those without mental illnesses: physical safety, education, transportation, affordable housing, and affordable medical/dental treatment. When providing care to those experiencing homelessness, it is essential to create a non-threatening and supportive atmosphere, address basic needs (e.g. food and shelter), and provide accessible care.
Open 365 days a year, Haven Toronto is the only centre in Canada dedicated to supporting elder homeless, marginally housed and socially isolated men 50+. Haven Toronto provides crisis and housing support, on-site social workers, nurses and dental hygienists, 3 nutritious meals a day, emergency clothing, showers, laundry facilities and more.