I am… a survivor of homelessness
Made homeless by mental health problems
I was homeless from 1983 to 1984, for well over a year, so I had experience of being homeless during all four seasons.
My homelessness was a direct effect of mental illness. I had suffered from mental illness for some time and was being treated, but I was taken off my medication and, as a result, there was a very sudden and very severe deterioration in my mental health. I lost insight into my condition and brushed off any suggestion, for example from my family, that I should see a doctor.
I am far from unique in that my experience of homelessness was the result of mental illness. Research suggests that more than 60% of homeless people have mental health problems. While your local church may not be able to respond directly to mental illness, it’s important that churches are inclusive and able to respond where possible. Getting someone the help they need may ensure they are able to remain in their home. I was a member of a United Reformed church at that time, and it may have helped if my minister had also echoed my family’s suggestions that I seek medical help. I would also argue that if a person has a Christian faith, they are much less likely to experience anxiety and depression.
The exact circumstances leading to my homelessness were that, early on in my illness, I gave away my entire life savings and so had little money. I was working in a library, but after developing delusions about colleagues, I walked out of a good job which up till then I had enjoyed. I headed to Scotland, where I had no home. Any money I had came from claims for benefits…
For more stories and ways to take action on homelessness, visit jointpublicissues.org.uk/endhomelessness
This is an extract from an article published in the May 2021 edition of Reform