How Do Homelessness and Mental Illness Relate, and What Can Be Done To Help?

Background Information

The homeless population is very vulnerable to not only mental illness, but almost every other health condition. They are almost four times as likely to have a physical health problem than a person in a shelter is and they are 28% more likely to have a mental illness condition than someone in a shelter.

The First graph is showing the difference in the levels of physical conditions, mental conditions, and substance abuse between homeless people who are sheltered and those who are not. As I said above, Unsheltered homeless people are not only 28% more likely to have a mental condition, but are 65% more likely to have some sort of physical health condition and 62% more likely to be substance abusers. The second graph is showing the most common ailments in the homeless community in LA. 34% of their homeless population have mental illnesses, including 17% that have PTSD, and 46% that are substance abusers. The final graph is showing the average levels of street homelessness in Center City Philadelphia alone. According to the graph, in 2018, there was an average of around 400 people. These graphs show the importance and significance that providing not only mental health care and services, but shelter as well can mean for homeless people and the potential good it can do for them.


I think that it would be extremely beneficial if it were required that all homeless shelters have a mental health staff, who were able to evaluate the mental state of their residents and provide advice to them. Another part of the solution to this problem would be having in-patient care centers and housing for the mentally ill homeless people all across the United States. I think that the method of helping homeless people by using outreach teams to find people who need support that Thresholds uses could also be employed in Philadelphia and other major cities in the United States. In Philadelphia in particular, I think that there could be a few outreach teams riding the Broad Street subway line, as it is the most popular line by far. Some other lines that some outreach teams could possibly ride would be the Market-Frankford line and the Broad-Ridge Spur line. Considering the number of homeless shelters in Philadelphia alone, if some of these practices were to be employed, it would greatly improve many homeless people’s lives, who are struggling with a mental illness.

How To Help For Now

For now, with the current Coronavirus situation, there isn’t as much that you can do to help, like volunteering at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen, but you can always donate. Homeless shelters will need more funds in order to provide mental health services for the homeless. Here are some links to Charity organizations in the US, or you can donate to you local homeless shelter. If any of you reading this have any feedback, comments, or ideas please feel free to comment them!

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  1. April 23, 2020 by C. M. Ray

    Very interesting report, with some good ideas for possible solutions. Especially the subway line idea! You’re right—a big increase in funding as well as sheltering is needed.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Jane

    This is a very interesting topic and I really like the solutions that you came up with! It’s unfortunate that we can’t do more at the moment but hopefully that will change after corona clears.

    • April 27, 2020 by Owen

      Thank you very much! I am very confident that I will be able to do more once the corona virus starts to go away.

  3. April 27, 2020 by Heather

    Hi Owen…you developed some great, specific solutions! Are there some ways that you plan to continue advocating for this issue now that the conference is ending?

    • April 27, 2020 by Owen

      Thank you very much! I think that the subway line idea would be quite effective in big cities, but finding personnel and funding still remains as a challenge.

    • April 27, 2020 by Owen

      Thank you very much! I think that once the corona virus starts to clear up, I can finally reach out to homeless shelters and other organizations in Philadelphia.

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