As reported by the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and
Severe Mental Illness, approximately one-third of homeless persons have a mental illness. Unlike other homeless persons, those with a mental illness face additional barriers in their struggle to avoid a life
on the street. The symptoms of mental illness may keep these individuals from seeking the help they need or make them fearful of human contact. An estimated 50% of homeless persons with mental illness abuse
alcohol and/or drugs. Most have weak social supports, with few friends and strained family relationships. Homeless persons with mental illness are more likely to be picked up by the police and to be the
victims of violence than other homeless individuals.
Given these problems, research is needed to examine the types
of services homeless persons with mental illness need to help them attain and maintain community living. Along with this, since homeless persons with mental illness often "fall through the cracks",
shuffled from one mental health or social service program to another without receiving the help they need, it is critical to understand how systems might work together to better deliver services to this
population. These are the goals of the Access to Community Care and Effective Services and Supports (ACCESS) program currently being conducted at the MHSRP. Another MHSRP study, Families of Homeless Severely Mentally Ill Relatives (HSMI), examines the nature of family contact and involvement with homeless persons with mental illness in order better understand how to strengthen these family relationships.