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|Stable housing and supportive services are critical to help people experiencing homelessness move toward recovery.|
About half of people experiencing homelessness suffer from mental health issues. At any given point in time, 45 percent of homeless people report having had indicators of mental health problems during the past year. About 25 percent of the homeless population has serious mental illness, including chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
People experiencing homelessness also have a high rate of substance use. According a 1996 survey, 46 percent of homeless respondents reported having an alcohol use problem in the past year, and 38 percent reported a problem with drug use in the past year.
Mental and physical health problems are exacerbated by living on the streets and in shelters. Health conditions that require ongoing treatment — such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, addiction, and mental illness — are difficult to treat when people are living in shelter or on the streets. Medication can require special steps, including refrigeration or special storage, that can be difficult to execute for people experiencing homelessness. Preventative care can also be difficult for this population to access due to its often prohibitive cost, so people experiencing homelessness may wait to seek medical care until a trip to the emergency room is necessary.
These mental and physical health conditions should be considered when designing effective, efficient strategies to end homelessness. Permanent supportive housing provides stable housing coupled with supportive services as needed – a cost-effective solution to homelessness for those with the most severe health, mental health, and substance use challenges.