Francisco, a homeless person, begs on the streets of Chicago.
Data from the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness
Homeless Chicagoans face a number of challenges. Click on chart to see full-size image.
Related LinksMore reasons on why homeless do not prefer to go to a homeless shelterFor more information on homeless stats visit the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness website Voices of the homelessMore on the plight of the homeless
Inconsistent mental health care hurts homeless, expert says
About one third of homeless people suffer from severe mental disorders, said Dr. Dan Beach, professor of psychology at Dominican University in River Forest. The most common of those disorders is schizophrenia, which leads to paranoid thinking, the suspiciousness of other people’s motives.
Beach said that mental illness may keep many homeless from going to shelters, and their symptoms also may prevent them from seeking help.
Beach said many see their conditions deteriorate because of the lack the continuous care and medication.
“It’s not a very coherent system and people are falling through the cracks,” Beach said.
Beach said that there was great promise in the early 1960s when there was a movement to improve community mental health, which led to creation of short-term facilities for the mentally ill. The idea was that people would be treated for a short-term period, be stabilized with medications and then be discharged into the community and treated on an outpatient basis.
Now the main problem has been to get people to come for those outpatient appointments with local community and health centers and to have agencies and governmental units follow up with the patients.
“It’s been a major failure of the system,” Beach said.
These patients move through a revolving door, Beach said. They get discharged, stop taking their medications, and when the symptoms start showing again, they wind up back in the hospital where they are treated again.
Beach said the answer is better outpatient follow up and better case management, but both are long term and expensive. Private insurance companies are not interested in doing this; the state is not interested in doing this.
“It requires more than the state of Illinois can provide. It’s extremely unfortunate,” Beach said.
Homeless people don’t vote; they don’t have lobbyists lobbying for them. So they are powerless voiceless people, he said.