(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy

Opinion: Homeless people often struggle with mental health

As you walk on the streets of Los Angeles, you might notice something everywhere you go: there are a lot of homeless people on the sidewalk. I wanted to understand more about what causes homelessness and interviewed people who were either currently homeless or had been homeless in the past and I discovered that mental health issues are a big part of the problem. 

A study from Harvard medical school mentioned how “In the year 2000, 30% of the homeless had a combination of mental health and drug or alcohol problems.”

Another statistic from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation showed that according to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development, “564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States.” At a minimum, 140,000 or 25% of these people were also seriously mentally ill.

Rosie Ramirez, age 46, and I met through my mother because they were friends. She had been homeless before and I asked her what happened. She told me she had been in an “extremely horrible accident” that broke the bones of her left foot, and that after her accident, she got depressed. 

“Before my accident, I was able to walk without any help,” she said, but afterward she was physically disabled and depressed, and this made her lose her job. For a while she was homeless but now lives in government housing.  

I also talked to a homeless man named Jose, who declined to provide his last name for anonymity purposes, age 32, who I saw around my neighborhood. He had also been in a really bad car accident, which led to his current situation. I wanted to know how people treated him. 

“Many people think that I am really lazy, but my parents kicked me out of the house,” Jose said, and he also went on to say that he was “depressed and that it got worse when he got homeless.”

Being homeless and depressed and cut off from his family, Jose said that he doesn’t feel like he can change his situation. 

After talking to these homeless or housing unstable people, I saw that they need help, and often it is mental health help and that the reasons they became homeless were out of their hands. More than housing, these people need help finding jobs and trying to get help for their problems.