Mental Illness and Homelessness

A photograph of tents made by tarps used by homeless people in San Francisco

Participate in this discussion before reading!

I wanted to focus on the increasing number of homeless people with mental health issues in the Bay Area and how we could solve this problem. There is a large homeless population, especially in San Francisco, and I believe there should be a way to decrease the number of them while also providing cheap or free mental health care. I believe this problem should be presented to perhaps the mayor of San Francisco to help organize a plan to fix this issue in our community. We could also involve clinicians in the area who could provide free or cheap group therapies in their spare time. My goal is to spread awareness to the public and especially to people who would be willing to donate their services or money to this project, which would allow homeless citizens with mental disorders to gain some control of their life. I would do this by reaching out to clinicians and members in our community to find out if anyone would be interested in giving time or money to fund this campaign, and on a larger scale I could propose a plan to the mayor of San Francisco to turn this into a state funded program. Hopefully, this would allow people to receive the treatment they need, whether it be therapy, pharmaceuticals, or both.

Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Budget Breakdown 2017

As you can see in the above pie chart, only about 2% of HSH’s budget goes towards Health Services and only 7% goes towards Street Outreach Services. This means that there is minimal effort being put into actually improving the situation and lifestyle that so many people in San Francisco are living. We have to make outreach and therapy a priority to those who need it and cannot afford it.

There has been some work done by the city to increase the amount of housing available for mental health patients as of the 2017-2018 years. There were 70 beds added for people with mental health or substance abuse issues.

“We need to be careful about investing in programs that are sustainable” -Rachel Metz (policy director at Tipping Point Community)

Allday, Erin. “Housing Best Weapon against Mental Illness.”, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 June 2017,

This video shows a more global perspective and how this is not only a local issue. But we must start small.

Call to Action:

We need to make the issue of mental illness in the homeless population known to the city of San Francisco’s officials, and encourage them to make sustainable changes in the budget and reach out to those who are willing to offer their time and services.

An important first step is to assess and identify the homeless population to provide an accurate diagnoses of mental illness. In order to do this, mental health professionals must take time to talk to and determine the people’s issues. Only then can we begin to focus on treating these illnesses with therapy sessions or drugs.

To make these ideas public, use the hashtag #HomelessOutreach to spread awareness.

Works Cited:

Barmann, Jay. “Some Facts About SF’s Homeless Population Ahead of the 2019 Point-in-Time Census.” SFist, SFist – San Francisco News, Restaurants, Events, & Sports, 20 Feb. 2019,

Allday, Erin. “Housing Best Weapon against Mental Illness.”, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 June 2017,

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2019 by 20LaurenB

    Hi Donna! Your presentation resulted in me thinking deeper about homelessness, so I decided to dive into why some people chose the streets over shelters. In an NPR article, they were interviewing a man who suffered from schizophrenia and as a result, ended up losing his job. What actions do you think the general population should take in raising awareness of these issues? How can these losses be prevented in the future?

  2. April 28, 2019 by Lauren Mazza

    Great project, I think this is an important issue to raise awareness about because not many people are aware of this. I thought the video you used was very helpful and informative and agree with you that education about mental health and homelessness is the first step of creating change.

  3. April 29, 2019 by Anika Stenberg

    This isn’t something I think about very often, but it’s a very important topic. Do you think that most of these people have a mental illness first, or are homeless first? For example, with depression, would people become depressed, lose motivation and maybe their job and eventually become homeless? Or would they become homeless first, causing them to become depressed?

  4. April 30, 2019 by Claire Irigoyen

    Incredible presentation. It is hard to believe the statistics associated with the homeless population as it correlates to mental health. Subsequent to the dilution of long-term mental health facilities, it is not all that surprising that this population of people suffering with mental illness would be displaced. It is sad; however, considering the advances in pharmacology that this problem prevails. If the goal of this presentation was to raise awareness in hopes that recognizing the problem will help to realize a solution….well done!!!!

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