Charities call for action after link between mental health and homelessness laid bare in new study

The devastating link between mental health and homelessness has been laid bare in a study produced by several homeless charities, who have called for a specific government plan to deal with this.

Simon Community and Depaul have documented the experiences of people who are homeless and conclude that almost 70 per cent of have a diagnosed mental health condition. The vast majority received that diagnosis before they became homeless.

The report highlights the multi-faceted nature of the challenge, including the length of the social housing waiting list, with 45,000 people on it.

Over 30,000 people on the list are in housing stress. But it is the added complexity of mental health problems which is the focus of this study.

Sean Kane, who was homeless for 16 years, told UTV that mental health support was difficult to access.

He said: "If someone is on the street they can't get a GP, they've no fixed abode. And you need the GP to make that initial step, to ask for help.

It's an experience echoed by Patricia who said she struggled to get the right help during her six years on the streets.

She said: "I'd nowhere to go, to turn to. Just someone to talk to, someone who could point you in the right direction."

Those behind this report have called for decision makers to urgently recognise homelessness as a health problem.

Northern Ireland's Mental Health Champion has said a new Programme for Government is needed in order to achieve a more joined up approach.

"What we really need is a Programme for Government that really understands the issue of childhood adversities, trauma and making those connections through education into health, for example."

Karen McAllister, from the Simon Community, told UTV the situation was on a "cliff edge" and that politicians need to get back into government.

She said: "We need them to get back around the table. This is a critical issue and if we don't do something about it we're going to see more people dying on the streets, more people becoming homeless. And actually there is a way we can change this."

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