After examining the very complex issue of homelessness in our previous blog posts, the following step is to see what happens next. Is it really possible to recover from homelessness? Or those persons are still suffering from it long after they have found a home? Can you experience homelessness and then move on and start a new stage of your life?
As you surely know by now, the effects of homelessness are unfortunately very long lasting. This sneaky issue creeps into every area of life and leaves great damages. The problems go so hand-in-hand that sometimes it’s impossible to separate them. Based on rough estimations 25% of homeless people are seriously mentally ill and 45% of them are having any mental illness. Even though this research was made in the US, the situation is not any rosier in Europe either.
The starting point
Homelessness and mental illness has a very complicated two-way relationship, which up-keep the problems and affect the person in a holistic way. The most common mental illness disorders related to homelessness are: depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and substance abuse disorder. In a study made in 2011 in Australia they examined 4000 people before and after experiencing homelessness. 16% of them developed different kind of mental issues while being on the streets.
Homelessness is such a traumatic event by itself that it can amplify any given mental health issue of a person or add simply new ones. Living without housing creates constant stress, that would require a long time treatment for recovering. Unfortunately the young population is more vulnerable when it comes to developing mental health problems due to housing. In the study mentioned above 78% of the affected people were between 12 and 24.
The process of recovering
So is there any hope for recovering? Countless research shows that stable housing is the first and most important step in the process of recovery. It has many benefits and serve as a foundation, but it is only the beginning. Many of these people are so traumatized already by the point of getting a house or their problems are so interwoven and deeply rooted, that unfortunately those issues follow them even into their new homes. This is what we have seen also in the organization we’ve been visiting (Vva), which offers first housing for the homeless. Undoubtedly to be able to live a life in a proper house has very positive effects on them, but the starting point is so low, that they have a very long way to go in order to recover. And to be honest, many of them, if not most of them, will never fully recover.
As Gloria Dickerson, recovery specialist states, “recovery doesn’t have an endpoint. It’s an ongoing journey. There’s never a time when you feel like you’ve finally arrived. You spend your life recovering. The good part is that this forces you to develop skills that allow you to keep moving forward in a spirit of hope. Because for me, no matter what, even though there are setbacks, hope is what recovery is all about.” Recovery is change.
Usually these kind of changes are slow and rather painful, but still fuelled with hope. So next time when you see a homeless or an ex-homeless person just ask yourself: What could you do or say to bring hope for that moment or maybe even for the day? Because it might be, that your little act of kindness or that one sentence of yours will help them to be able to continue in the long lasting and patience testing process of recovery.
Thanks for reading!