All over America, there are people wandering the streets without a home. These individuals are seen as a crowd, a separate collective existence. They are called the homeless, as if that defines who they are, but we too often neglect to add the unspoken word in that title: people. It seems today that the more fortunate citizens of America who have a roof over their heads have forgotten their innate responsibility to watch over those in this world whom are incapable of caring for themselves. Tragically, “thirty to fifty percent of the homeless have severe mental illnesses” (Torrey 1).
These individuals live life in such a way that few people in this world could possibly even begin to compare their hardships. The fact that they survive completely independently, most without the medication they need, is bewildering. The problems resulting from the lack of attention given to the homeless who are mentally ill can be solved through the establishment of better health clinics, and stricter laws involving patient care.
If more clinics were to be established specializing in the mental health of the homeless, then the attention could be given to them that they need. E. Fuller Torrey, author of “The Homeless Mentally Ill Should Be Forced To Receive Treatment” describes the habits and reasons for the incredible amount of mentally ill homeless:
“They sleep, importune strangers, gesture to imaginary accomplices, shout angrily at the wind, forage through cans, and sit quietly with glazed eyes.
They are daily reminders of the massive failure of one of the Great Society’s premier programs: the deinstitutionalization of mental patients out of state asylums and into local Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs)” (Torrey, 2).
Currently, mental hospitals are too eager to place their homeless patients in community health centers. These health centers are more interested in mid-life crisis patients than in the seemingly incurable schizophrenics. These mental patients find it very easy to wander their way back on to the streets. Wade Black, of “Defining the Homeless and the Mentally Ill”, says :
“If more of us understood how they struggle to overcome their illness, we would seek better ways to assist them rather than to force them out of our communitiesif we can establish humane housing that includes the support services necessary to make the transition back to ordinary living, the homeless population would drop dramatically” (Black 1).
Clinics need to be established specializing in only the homeless with a staff that is more considerate to the fact that the patients of this nature share a lack of judgement and tend to assume that they are “okay”, when they are not.
When these patients reach the streets, they are without their medications. An individual with an untreated mental disability can be a threat to others as well as themselves. Each year, mentally ill people who are not receiving treatment manage to kill about one thousand people in the United States. These statistics are a result of the “emptying of our public psychiatric hospitals” (Torrey 1). .