For most, homelessness is not a “lifestyle choice.” It's the result of challenging, often unexpected, life events that could happen to any one of us.
In Dane County, 3,500 individuals, over 1,000 of them children, experience homelessness every year. For some, homelessness is a once-in-lifetime experience, for others it’s a chronic battle that they cannot escape from. Loss of a job, poverty, lack of affordable housing options, severe mental illness, racial disparity, and fleeing domestic violence are the greatest reasons for homelessness in our community.
In 2013, over 1,000 people were turned away from shelters due to a lack of shelter space. Hundreds of our Madison neighbors are physically and mentally sick living in the streets with no where to go for help.
Mental illness can hit anyone at any time. Mental illness knows no racial, income, or intelligence boundaries. Many people have no symptoms of mental illness until early adulthood. And when it hits, it hits hard. Most experience an unexpected, significant mental breakdown. During this time, people are caught so off-guard that they do not know how to manage the turmoil happening inside their mind. They cannot function, life spirals out of control, and many lose their jobs, resulting in an inability to pay for their home. Within a matter of months, they find themselves sick and living on the streets.
Unfortunately, many homeless people are mentally ill and undiagnosed. While 32% of Madison’s homeless neighbors report they have a diagnosed mental illness, it is believed 60% or more of homeless people have a mental illness that they have not seen a doctor for.
Fortunately, Housing Initiatives knows how to solve the problem of chronic homelessness due to mental illness. Housing Initiatives has developed an innovative, successful model for ending chronic homelessness, with over 95% of program participants never returning to living on the streets.
When someone is sick and has no family to care for them, Housing Initiatives can guide them out of the darkness. We all need a safe place to call home.