Homelessness and Mental Illness


When most Nevadans' think of the holidays, thoughts of joy, love and spending time with family comes to mind. This is the case for many of our state's population but not for all of our Nevada residents. For our homeless and mentally ill population, the holidays can be the most stressful time of the year. This is extremely stressful and troublesome for those who are homeless, and suffer from mental health.

According to a recent study from the Nevada Homeless Alliance here are some of the 2016 Homeless Stats in Nevada: 

•   30,000 individuals experience homelessness of some kind in Southern Nevada alone

•   6208 individuals and families are without homes and steady shelter

•   1765 children and youth are homeless in Southern Nevada

•   826 victims of domestic violence are homeless in Southern Nevada

•   118 homeless families with children in Southern Nevada

The numbers are staggering. Southern Nevada has always been a popular destination for the homeless; with our temperate climate year around, we are a more attractive destination for those without homes.

Homelessness and Mental Illness:

Unfortunately homelessness and mental illness go hand in hand.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness. In comparison, only 6% of Americans are severely mentally ill. Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults. For homeless families, mental illness was mentioned by 12% of cities as one of the top 3 causes of homelessness.

Why does mental illness cause homelessness:

Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self- care and household management. Mental illnesses may also prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others’ guidance and react irrationally. This often results in pushing away caregivers, family, and friends who may be the force keeping that person from becoming homeless. As a result of these factors and the stresses of living with a mental disorder, people with mentally illnesses are much more likely to become homeless than the general population. A study of people with serious mental illnesses seen by California’s public mental health system found that 15% were homeless at least once in a one-year period. Patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable.

Poor mental health may also affect physical health, especially for people who are homeless. Mental illness may cause people to neglect taking the necessary precautions against disease. When combined with inadequate hygiene due to homelessness, this may lead to physical problems such as respiratory infections, skin diseases, or exposure to tuberculosis or HIV. In addition, half of the mentally ill homeless population in the United States also suffers from substance abuse and dependence. Many mentally ill people self-medicate using street drugs, which can lead not only to addictions, but also to disease transmission from injection drug use. This combination of mental illness, substance abuse, and poor physical health makes it very difficult for people to obtain employment and residential stability.

The Solution:

Studies have shown that better mental health services would combat not only mental illness, but homelessness as well. Like, the programs that The Well Care Group has created. Contrary to popular belief, many homeless people with severe mental illnesses are willing to accept treatment and services.

Research has shown that supported housing is effective for people with mental illnesses. Even if homeless individuals with mental illnesses are provided with housing, they are unlikely to achieve residential stability and remain off the streets unless they have access to continued treatment and services. The Well Care Group provides supported housing programs, services such as mental health treatment, physical health care, education and employment opportunities, peer support, and daily living and money management skills training.

The Well Care Group is committed to helping the Homeless and Mentally Ill population of Nevada. If you or someone you know is in need of the services we provide, please visit our web-site for more information: www.thewellcaregroup.com or call 702-576-9545. The Well Care Group, caring for Nevada.