The majority of people with serious mental illnesses who are homeless had prior contact with the mental health system, either as an inpatient or outpatient. These experiences were not always positive; they may have been hospitalized involuntarily or given treatment services or medications that did not benefit them.
The symptoms of mental illness, combined with the hygiene problems associated with homelessness, result in many untreated physical health problems such as respiratory infections, dermatological problems, and risk of exposure to HIV and tuberculosis.
These individuals typically are long-term citizens of the communities in which they are homeless.
The social support and family networks of these individuals usually have unraveled. Those who are members of families often have lost regular contact with their relatives or are no longer equipped to be primary caregivers.
These individuals are twice as likely as other homeless people to be arrested or jailed, mostly for misdemeanors. They are often good candidates for diversion programs that enable them to go from jail to more appropriate treatment, support, and housing.