RunningWorks takes on the growing need to address mental health in our community

There are many reasons a person or family can become homeless.

Many of us are aware of the financial factors, such as poverty and unemployment, but according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one of the chief causes of homelessness in the United States is mental illness.

Mental illness can disrupt a person’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life that many of us take for granted, such as self-care and household management. Mental illness may also prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others’ guidance and react irrationally. According to SAMHSA, this often results in pushing away caregivers, family and friends who may be the very force that is keeping that person from becoming homeless.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors asked 25 cities to name the three largest causes of homelessness in their communities, and mental illness was found to be the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults. In addition, half of the mentally ill homeless population in the United States also suffers from substance abuse and dependence. On average, an estimated eight out of every 10 individuals who walk through doors at RWHQ  report untreated mental illness or addiction.

For these reasons, RunningWorks has partnered with Genesis Project 1 to ensure that each and every one of our participants has direct access to one-on-one counseling and group therapy, which are provided by a licensed mental health professional free of charge on a weekly basis at our team headquarters near uptown.

Contrary to popular belief, many homeless people dealing with issues of mental health and addiction are willing to accept treatment and services. However, the method of how those services are delivered can greatly impact their rate of success. We attribute much of the success of our programs to our ability to form trusting relationships with clients through continued contact with those we are trying to help.

Providing direct access to mental health services plays a major role in all of our housing initiatives because we recognize that without it, our clients are less likely to achieve sustained residential stability. According to the National Mental Association, research has shown that even when homeless individuals are provided with housing, they are more likely to end up back on the streets unless they have access to continued treatment and services to help them reintegrate into their communities.

In addition to providing housing and mental health treatment, our supportive housing programs also provide physical health care, fitness programs, education and employment opportunities, and peer support along with life skill and money management training. We are finding that when provided with these supportive services in addition to housing, clients transitioning out of homelessness are more likely to achieve residential stability and experience an improved overall quality of life.