Re: Are most homeless people "mentally ill"? Who benefits by

Judy Olsen (
Sun, 07 Feb 1999 08:57:45 -0800

I agree with what Graeme and Ron said.  From my experiences at being homeless,
the statistic of 3% seems about right.

What I've noticed mostly is that no one talks about how homelessness creates
mental (?), emotional (?) illness.  Of course, depression is at the top of the
list.  Our society probably thinks that once a homeless person gets both a job
and a home, then that person is just fine, nothing more to worry about.
Right?  WRONG!

One formerly homeless friend of mine and myself have noticed that being "not
quite right in the head" seems to be proportional to the length of time spent
living rough on the streets.  If you got into the shelter system right away,
then you're probably able to adjust more quickly to a "normal" lifestyle.
However, if you were forced to live rough for a long time (months, possibly
years), then you'll probably take a long time to adjust to living a "normal"
lifestyle, if ever.

For example:  Before homelessness, I was a fairly "normal" person.  After
homelessness, I'm "not quite right in the head."  Even though it's been 6 or 7
years, there are still times when I have to force myself to act and react
appropriately.  The only time I can "be myself," is when I spend time with
other formerly homeless people.  I have all new friends.  If I allow myself to
think about it, I get scared that I'm going to lose everything again.  I
notice how shallow most people are.  I'm more forgiving of myself and others
when we fuck up.

I believe we suffer from a similar syndrome that war veterans suffer from.  I
forget what it's called.

Do the rest of the formerly homeless people on this network believe they are
perfectly "normal" again?  Do you believe that you might be "one brick shy of
a full load?"

Judy O
Seattle, WA