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What is the Relationship Between Mental Health and the Los Angeles Homelessness Crisis?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Out of all of the United States, Los Angeles possesses the second-largest amount of homeless individuals. It is estimated that in 2019 the homeless population of Los Angeles reached close to a shocking 59,000. I remember the first time that I drove down Skid Row- the home to over 2,000 homeless people. I was 5 at the time and at a stoplight became fixated on a man who was clearly yelling at someone or something. This someone or something happened to be invisible to me and everyone else. This is a very common occurrence. Mental illness in the global homeless community is rampant. A recent study showed that an estimated 67% of the homeless population is mentally ill and without any kind of adequate health care in Los Angeles. For many people, they become homeless due to their mental illness, for others, they’re mental illness begins to show after they become homeless. It is important to understand this connection between homelessness and mental health. Psychological abnormalities can contribute significantly to homelessness due to the fact that in some cases an illness completely prevents one from functioning in a way that supports them financially. Mental illness can also be extremely isolating, disconnecting one from all forms of support. On the other hand, homelessness also contributes to mental health. For many people, living on the streets creates a vulnerability that can be beyond traumatic which can sometimes lead to the development of PTSD and depression.

MY RESPONSE: WHAT CAN WE DO

1. EDUCATION

As I mentioned, this topic impacts all of us and one of the keys to the process of dealing with this is through education. By raising awareness and empathy around the topic of mental health and it’s role in the LA homeless crisis. I feel that there is a general sense of “turning-a-blind-eye” to this pressing issue and education around the subject is crucial.

2. PERMANENT AND LONG-TERM HOUSING

There are a handful of short-term health facilities for the homeless people of Los Angeles. While this helps in the moment, most of the time, after the person is released from a health facility they return to the streets and the issues continue. There is a shortage of places that help and continue to help the homeless in Los Angeles. It is frequent that someone’s battle with a mental illness does not just disappear after weeks of treatment and because of this, it is important to begin thinking about more permanent possibilities.

HOW WILL YOU HELP

In the comments below please share (1) why you think this topic is somewhat ignored, (2) other ideas you have for dealing with this issue, (3) what you think you can do on as an individual to help this process. Also please share any overall questions or comments you have!

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COMMENTS: 5
  1. April 24, 2020 by Maria

    Oh my goodness I didn’t know that 67% of homeless people are mentally ill. I think this topic is ignored because most people think that homeless people just want money for drug abuse. I thought this was a really interesting topic and I really enjoyed learning from your project.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Ozzy

    Hi Ella! I think homelessness is usually ignored because people don’t want to imagine themselves in the situation (even though most people can easily los their home and experience homelessness) so they treat people experiencing homelessness as “other” and, in some ways, not like another human (which is really, really sad!!). During a pandemic that is likely going to put more people on the street and also puts people on the street more at risk of catching coronavirus, I think one simple way to house people suffering from homelessness (right now, at least) is to use vacant hotel rooms to house them.

    I do agree, though, that permanent housing needs to be made available. I think I read a couple years ago that it actually costs less and is more effective to give housing vouchers out than the status quo—do you know if this is true?

  3. April 25, 2020 by Jena Thorne

    Ella, what a powerful page! I love how clear and easy it is to read, and I think your topic is really important, and not something brought to light very often.

  4. April 25, 2020 by Grace

    I think the topic of homelessness is ignored because people do stigmatize them as drug and alcohol addicts and see them as lesser than in society. I think this is so wrong and people can be homeless for a multitude of reasons that don’t involve drugs one of them being mental health. I had no idea 67% of homeless people had mental illnesses and that clearly shows a need for change. I think in my community I can donate and support organizations who help homeless people get off the streets and the help they may/may not need. Great Presentation!

  5. April 26, 2020 by Heather

    Hi Ella, thank you for focusing on a significant issue to raise awareness. How might you continue your advocacy after the conference is complete?

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