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“Just Get a Job” Why It’s Not That Easy: Homelessness and Mental Health

Mental health is a common challenge that many people experiencing homelessness suffer from. Often times, various forms of mental health challenges are the reason why individuals find themselves homeless or cannot leave homelessness.

This is because their challenges make living independently nearly impossible. This has a huge impact on one’s ability to have a job and afford living expenses that would keep them off the street.

Mental illness makes it difficult to cope, and most people with these serious conditions cannot afford proper help, thus the problem continues untreated.

Unfortunately, very often society fails to understand how someone could become homeless, and even more scoffs at their inability to get back on their feet. This stigma often comes from not understanding the link between homelessness and mental illness.

Homeless man sitting on the stairs in distress

The Link Between Homelessness and Mental Illness

Life on the streets is dangerous. Individuals often develop mental health issues like fear, anxiety, depression, isolation and PTSD after becoming homeless. Living on the streets and not knowing where your next meal is coming from can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Others, who were struggling with mental health issues prior to ending up homeless, have difficulty finding medical and psychiatric care that can successfully follow and monitor their care.

Those dealing with mental illness are more vulnerable and likely to become the victim of violence or crime. This complicates their already fragile state and can increase their difficulties.

Homeless man sitting outside and holding a sign

So, why don’t they just get a job?

Homelessness is a vicious cycle and untreated mental illness has a cascading effect.

Homeless people who are suffering from mental health disorders, very often struggle to meet the basic needs, such as accessing food, housing, clothing, and healthcare.

Without a home, it is harder to get consistent food or to access showers and have clean clothing. This makes it harder to be presentable for job interviews, which makes it very difficult to get a job.

Very often, the condition of people’s mental health makes it impossible to obtain and keep a job. Even common mental illnesses like anxiety disorder or depression can throw a wrench into simple tasks like a job routine, getting up in the morning or self-care. Severe mental health illnesses like Schizophrenia can make normal living and social interactions next to impossible.

It’s not that people experiencing homelessness do not want to work, most of the time it is just impossible.

A lack of resources, long waiting lists for affordable housing, insufficient treatment options, and complex mental health issues make it difficult to find stable employment. And without an income, it nearly impossible to find secure and permanent housing. The cycle continues.

Homeless women pushing a cart with lots of bags