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Homelessness reflects our societal values. People with psychiatric disabilities are generally poor and disadvantaged, and safe, decent housing is often beyond their means. Access to affordable housing and appropriate supports for people with disabilities might easily undergird the social structure of the wealthiest nation on earth; indeed, deinstitutionalization could make sense only in the context of providing affordable housing and supports. Focusing on identifying characteristics of homeless people or elements of treatment needs thus may obscure more fundamental problems— those flowing from a public policy that was partly a money-saving maneuver trading on a humanistic ethos that condemned institutions as oppressive by definition and ignored the protective function they served. Given the realities of deinstitutionalization, available housing, urban life, and public health care, individuals with severe psychiatric disabilities are at continuous risk for homelessness, as well as other preventable conditions such as incarceration, victimization, and HIV infection. (Authors)
Psychiatric Services
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services