Mental Illness and Homelessness

By Keiko Okuhara, Bibliographic Services/Systems Librarian

Harvard Health Newsletter reported that hundreds of thousands of Americans spend the night in shelters or on the streets, and a high proportion of them have serious mental illnesses. About 600,000 people are homeless on any given night, and 2 million at some time in any given year. Over a five-year period, 2%–3% of the population, as many as 8 million people, will be homeless for at least one night.

About a quarter to a third of the homeless have a serious mental illness usually schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression — and the proportion is growing.

The main sources of support for the homeless are Social Security provided by the federal government and emergency public shelters, mostly operated by voluntary lay groups or religious organizations. Many of the mentally ill avoid shelters because they fear violence and theft or cannot tolerate the noise, crowds, and confusion.

Mental Illness Policy Org.

Mental Illness Policy Org. was founded in 2011 by DJ Jaffe who was credited with passing NY’s Kendra’s Law and played a major role in passing certain provisions of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act that were eventually incorporated in the 21st Century CURES Act. The issues facing the seriously mentally ill differ from the problems that affect the much broader population of people who have issues like anxiety and mild depression. The needs of the seriously ill often get lost in the larger dialogue about mental health. Mental Illness Policy Org. brings together the best research and insights from writers and researchers around the world who have studied serious mental illness, and synthesizes their scholarship into actionable policies designed to improve care, save money, and keep public and patients safe. Difference between Mental Illness Policy Org. and other organizations Mental Illness Policy Org. focuses on serious mental illness, not mental health.

You can view the bibliographic record for this website in the University of Hawaii Law Library’s catalog at:


The Homeless Mentally Ill, Harvard Health Publishing, (March 2014),

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