Poor mental health remains one of the great unaddressed issues surrounding homelessness.
In recent months, we have seen a marked increase in the number of applications for our grants that specifically mention anxiety, depression, or general mental health issues. Whether they are pre-existing or brought on by homelessness, they are almost always exacerbated by the fear, trauma, and instability that comes with not having a safe, permanent home.
Existing mental health issues can, in turn, make the likelihood of homelessness much higher. People with mental health problems are more likely to struggle with housing payments*, and there is a link between mental health and housing arrears. This comes at a time when the majority of people in England rent privately, wages are largely frozen, and rents and the general cost of living continue to rise.
These issues usually coincide with other stressful situations such as loss of a job, or bereavement. The worry of arrears and potential homelessness can then pile on top of an existing condition.
Ben suffers from depressive episodes, anxiety, and behavioural disorders. After his relationship broke down, he was unable to cope and fell into rent arrears. He became homeless and took an overdose. Thankfully, he survived and was given a room at a local hostel.
As a result of his depression, basic living skills can be a struggle. He often withdraws from others around him and finds it difficult to speak to staff at his hostel. When in a low mood, he doesn’t eat much and has lost a lot of weight. He only has the clothes he arrived at the hostel in. They are now very scruffy, which further dents his self-esteem. He is using his small income to pay off his arrears, which leaves no money to purchase clothing.
However, Ben meets up with a local family member and builds his confidence by doing odd jobs around their home. Church Homeless Trust also funded new clothes for him, including socks, shoes, and a thick coat.
*Money and Mental Health Policy Institute – Where the Heart Is, April 2018