Homelessness and mental health: in our clients’ words Part 2

This is a continuation of a two-part series that looks into a journey of homelessness and mental illness.

As part of our submission to the Royal Commission in Victoria’s Mental Health System, we talked to our clients to learn about how they’ve navigated the homelessness and mental health systems. Their overall experiences are shared in their own words below and reflect the devastating impact of homelessness.

Homelessness is chaotic and time-consuming

‘People don’t realise how chaotic it is when you’re actually homeless…you can’t just cook a basic [meal]…or even going to have a shower, if you’re homeless. It’s like a complicated task, it takes up so much of your time, looking for housing…you don’t really have time to do much else or focus on anything else’. (‘Kym’)

‘[Being homeless, things went] backwards really, you don’t have that stability so you’re not able to focus on other things, other than where you’re going to sleep…You can’t focus on even just getting to a doctor’s appointment’. (‘Leigh’)

Housing is paramount

You’re homeless and that’s the most important thing…your mental state, it’s just got to be put on hold…you don’t want to go and see anybody about your mental state because you need housing and that’s all you’re really concentrating on: where am I going to sleep tonight?…I was appointed a psychologist and all that. She’s great…but she can’t even begin to work on my head because I don’t want to hear it, you know, why would I want to talk about that, I just want to be housed, that’s my main priority’. (‘Fran’)

‘You cannot focus on your mental health if you don’t have a place to live. Eventually your mental health will get worse and worse and worse, and eventually, I’ve heard people literally do kill themselves over it…[Being homeless has] caused a lot of anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence, [I’m] worried all the time, what’s going to happen…I don’t want to end up on the streets. It just keeps going right across my mind all the time. Just very worried’. (‘Janet’)

Mental health stability and recovery

It’s critical to quickly house those without a home and living with a mental illness; housing is an essential need for all individuals in society, but especially for those with a mental ill-health as there’s an urgent need to ensure their well-being, security, and recovery.

‘If you’ve got stability and you’ve got somewhere safe, somewhere to [live]…housing is really important, it’s the beginning of being able to start to work on your mental health’. (‘Leigh’)

Impact of housing would be immediate
‘Basic necessities like homes and stuff in people’s lives can make the world of difference with people in every way…otherwise, people just deteriorate…need to build way more houses…that’s the main problem, that will solve a lot…I bet you if all of them [people sleeping rough] had stable housing, probably half of them would be normal again…it’s just like me, if I had stable housing…I wouldn’t be depressed…my mental health would be one hundred times better’. (‘Kym’)

Hope and aspirations for positive and fulfilling future

‘[Housing would] affect my mental health in a very positive way because I’ll have stability in my life, I’ll have a roof on top of my head and I’ll have proper food and I’ll have a proper life and hopefully, in the future I do want to get a job…I will be able to move forward in my life and look forward to the life that I want to live’. (‘Janet’)

Discover more about the impact of homelessness and mental health.