Mentally Ill Homeless Facing Harsher Reality

CHICAGO (CBS) — You may have seen it: more homeless people in Chicago streets, airports and around city buildings.

Their numbers are going up, experts say as much as 18 percent. And it’s happening as funding for mental health programs goes down, CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports.

Airport halls are pass-through turf for most, but they are sleeping quarters for the ranks who have nowhere else to go. Beyond the “Do Not Enter” sign is where you find them.

Some are shoeless, trying to sleep on a broken walkway or up against a wall.

And O’Hare isn’t their only refuge.

“Across the city, we’re seeing many, many more homeless, in virtually all neighborhoods,” Thresholds CEO Tony Zipple says.

Advocates for the homeless blame the spike partly on statewide cuts to mental health funding. Thresholds alone lost $4.5 million in state funding this year.

Lutheran Social Services is working with $1 million less. Both agencies say they turn people away every day.

Numbers to back up what they’re saying about the mentally ill who are homeless are tough to come by because tracking the group is tough. They do know this: People they can’t help either sleep in the shadows or end up somewhere else that costs.

“It’s a bad deal for taxpayers because it costs much more to treat people in jails and prisons and in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals than it does to provide good community services,” Zipple said.

Things could get even worse. Mid-year funding cuts could be in the works that could reduce mental health funding even more. And that could mean less help for some of Illinois’ most vulnerable.

  • rank n wank


  • franklin808

    Quinn needs to raise the income tax higher to pay for these social programs. Illinois still does not have the highest income tax rates so there is a lot of room for more taxes.

    • mike t

      that will NOT and i repeat NOT solve the problem!! how dare you post such a response!!

  • Jim Galloy

    The measure of a country’s greatness should be based on how well it cares for its most vulnerable populations.
    Mahatma Gandhi quote

  • sidthekid1

    Its a shame. People shouldn’t have to live like this and wouldn’t if Quin would stop slashing away at the mental health budget.

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  • Fr. Mike Lyles, s.s.c.;A.O.C.C.

    I am the case manager at Joy Junction in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the largest homeless shelter in the state, and the only one shelteriing and feeding entire families. We average sheltering over 300 people each night, men women and children, and with our outreach food truck, “The Lifeline of Hope”, serve 20,000 meals each month, all without a dime of government support. One thing I’ve learned from working there is that the “mentally ill” aren’t “crazy”. They are the victims of crazy people. Anyone truly concerned about about the plight of the homeless is invited to contact Dr.Jeremy Reynalds, Phd., our CEO, A MAN ONCE HOMELESS HIMSELF! We would love to share our experience, and hope by doing so, to inspire others to duplicate our efforts in their localities. Joy Junction 4500 2nd St. S/W Albuquerque, N.M. 87125

  • Jessica Patrick

    I really think that there needs to be some kind of tax increase. Many people are living lives they do not wish to live. It is not a persons fault they have a diagnosis of being mentally ill. I developed a mental illness @ age 10 from having brain tumors and was institutionalized for 17 years since age 12. Being a member of a mental health organization has lead me to putting hope back in my life when staff @ the IMDs were telling me I would never leave. I’ve now lived on my own for 2 years, became a certified volunteer of Thresholds and a statewide public speaker, advocating on peoples recovery and the services they need to help them recovery. Since I’ve lived independantly, My health has improved a great deal and continues to get better. This never would have happened if I were still institutionalized and without the support I’ve gotten from caseworkers at Thresholds. People don’t realize that they are paying more money for services like nursing homes, jails, hospitals, etc. rather than the money these services receive to help people stay away from these situations. If they continue to have cuts for the services people need, there will be more people ending up in jails, hospitals, nursing homes and homeless and taxpayers will be paying more for these things. Stop the cuts!

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