HOMELESSNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH
ONE THIRD OF ALL HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE ESTIMATED TO BE SUFFERING FROM SEVERE MENTAL
Homelessness and Mental Illness
Mental illness is an often severe and disabling medical condition that can nearly always be
effectively treated. An estimated 20 percent of the population has some sort of serious
mental illness during their lifetime – that’s one in 5 Californians. Individuals with
mental illness are also both the largest and fastest growing group of people with
disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability
Income (SSDI) disability payments. According to the President’s New Freedom Commission on
Mental Health, an estimated $25 billion is spent annually for these disability payments.
There are many forms of mental illness, which like almost any illness, vary in severity.
Some of the most common forms of mental illness include schizophrenia, manic
depressive/bi-polar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive
- Although less than 5% of the population suffers from severe mental illness, they
comprise an estimated 20-40% of the homeless population.
- Mentally ill people who are homeless are often arrested for some type of nuisance
crime yet those who receive comprehensive community mental health treatment stay in such
treatment, remain safely housed, and have an incarceration or homeless rate of less than
- If we don’t fund mental health care programs that are effective at treating the
homeless and getting them off the streets we will be wasting precious redevelopment
dollars that help our business community grow and our local economy prosper.
- AB 34 (Steinberg, 1999) funds community mental health programs that provide voluntary
outreach, access to medicines and a variety of support services for the homeless who
suffer from mental illness. An initial investment of $10 million produced millions in
savings by reducing hospitalization and incarceration. Because of AB 34’s success, the
program was expanded in 2000 to 34 cities and counties, helping 4,720 homeless mentally
ill individuals. As a result, state and local governments are seeing a $23 million
savings through an 81% reduction in jail days, a 66% reduction in hospital days and an
80% reduction in homelessness.
Sustained funding for mental health treatment in California is critical because of the
direct impact mental illness has on all aspects of society – education, homelessness, law
enforcement and overall health costs. Reductions in available resources for comprehensive
mental health treatment will ultimately result in additional costs transferred to another
segment of our community. Funding of mental health services should remain a priority for
California because it is clear the investment saves both money and lives.
For questions or additional information call Kami Lloyd at 916-658-0144
1127 – 11 th Street, Suite 925, Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: 916-557-1167 Fax: 916-447-2350 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org