Mental Illness and Homelessness: Hose 'Em Down

July 16, 2013 Becky Oberg

Mental illness is the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults. Unfortunately, mental illness stigma keeps society from solving the problem.

The owner of Seattle’s From The Heart Pottery, Shari Druckman-Roberts, recently shared her solution of what to do about the homeless with mental illness or substance abuse problems.

“These people should not be on the street,” she said. “They should not be allowed to sleep in the street. They should not be allowed to be out in public with mental disorders, if they have them, or if they’re drug addicts, they need to go away.”

She continues "People like us are going to get angrier and angrier, and without the proper police support, we’re going to start to take things into our own hands. Which means people are going to get hosed down. Like, if I was Dania, I’d hook up a hose and hose all [the homeless people] down in the morning."

Needless to say, she’s so blinded by stigma that she doesn’t support solving the problem by offering services, even though mental illness and substance abuse are some of the leading causes of homelessness. She wants them “hosed down” and locked up.

I don't know about Seattle, but in most of the United States, that's exactly what's happening.

The Stigma of Mental Illness vs. Physical Illness

Mental illness is the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults. Unfortunately, mental illness stigma keeps society from solving the problem.Mental illness is one of the few illnesses where it's still acceptable to be prejudiced against the person who has it. Can you imagine the outcry if she'd said that people shouldn't be allowed to be in a wheelchair in public, or that people with diabetes just need to go away? Mental illness is a physical illness that just happens to be in the brain. It's not the person's fault. So why is it okay to be prejudiced against people with a mental illness?

While it is somewhat more difficult to be sympathetic toward someone with a substance abuse issue, it shouldn't be. Substance abuse is considered a disease--and as someone with an addiction to alcohol, I can say that people with this disease have very little choice in the matter. Like mental illness, the only choice the person has is whether or not to accept treatment.

This stigma of mental illness keeps the public from wanting to pay for services, which would be a giant step toward solving the problem. Instead, we just want the problem to go away or be locked up. So we criminalize the symptoms of the problem and do very little to solve it. That's why the leading provider of mental health services in Indianapolis is the Marion County Jail.

Homelessness and Psychiatric Problems

According to National Coalition for the Homeless, mental illness is the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults. The Coalition cites a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration statistic that claims 20 to 25 percent of the homeless population suffers from severe mental illness. Half of this group suffers from substance abuse, usually caused by self-medicating. People with severe mental illness are more likely than the general population to become homeless.

I spent some time in a homeless/battered women's shelter--I had to flee from an abusive boyfriend who suffered from untreated bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. I also spent three additional months in the state hospital system because I had nowhere to live--they couldn't discharge me until I had a home. If you have a mental illness, homelessness can happen very, very easily. And once you're homeless, the vicious cycle of finding a place to live and losing it due to your symptoms continues. And people want you to go away or lock you up.

Services May Solve the Problem, But Who Wants to Pay?

"Better mental health services would combat not only mental illness, but homelessness as well," the Coalition reports. "Contrary to popular belief, many homeless people with severe mental illnesses are willing to accept treatment and services. Outreach programs are more successful when workers establish a trusting relationship through continued contact with the people they are trying to help."

The report continues "Even if homeless individuals with mental illnesses are provided with housing, they are unlikely to achieve residential stability and remain off the streets unless they have access to continued treatment and services. Research has shown that supported housing is effective for people with mental illnesses (National Mental
Health Association, 2006). In addition to housing, supported housing programs offer services such as mental health treatment, physical health care, education and employment opportunities, peer support, and daily living and money management skills training. Successful supported housing programs include outreach and engagement workers, a variety of flexible treatment options to choose from, and services to help people reintegrate into their communities (National Mental Health Association, 2006). Homeless people with mental illnesses are more likely to recover and achieve residential stability if they have access to supported housing programs."

The problem is no one wants to pay for this, largely due to mental illness stigma. So the homelessness problem continues.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, July 16). Mental Illness and Homelessness: Hose 'Em Down, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 21 from

Author: Becky Oberg

Hoko Le
May, 28 2021 at 5:58 pm

WOW! That is just ridiculous! The people who want US to go away should be the ones to go away! They are cruel heartless people and HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE.

Neurotic Nelly
July, 19 2013 at 6:37 am

This was a thought provoking article and I really appreciate it. I linked your post in my post and quoted it. I asked my readers to read it. I hope that is okay as I want to go into detail about the homeless population and disability funding. Please let me know if that is acceptable. Thanks and I am fairly sure I have become a fan of your writing. Keep up the amazing work!

July, 19 2013 at 5:42 am

I was present during the interview with the seattle weekly. Shari did not say what was represented by Matt Driscoll of the seattle weekly. What was actually said is that without help from the city, business owners in an act of frustration may do something like using hoses to clean up after the homeless which could escalate the issue and be horrible for all involved. Shari has asked the weekly for an apology and a correction and they have refused. She also asked to listen to the recordings of the interview with the editor. They again refused. The editor also said that printing a correction would hurt the overall story. The weekly needed an angry business owner for their story and they exploited a local artist who was upset for homeless people. Matt and his editor should be ashamed at this appeal to incite a mod. It worked, Shari has been told to go back where she came from, called racial epithets, and verbally threatened. I expect many of you are not interested in the truth but rather looking for someone to attack.
Also I have sent a similar message to many managers of Facebook pages where this lie is being spread. The managers of many of those pages have chosen not to publish our side(the truth) of the story, because hate is more interesting than truth.

July, 18 2013 at 6:55 am

There is no water on this persons planet.

Mental Illness and Homelessness: Hose ‘Em Down - Panic and Anxiety News Blog | Panic and Anxiety News Blog
July, 17 2013 at 12:21 am

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