San Francisco takes the lead in helping homeless schizophrenics
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helping homeless schizophrenics
03-19-15 Category: Mental Health

helping homeless schizophrenics

Homelessness is a struggle for many individuals in California and it is made worse for those who are suffering from mental health disorders. While the disability benefits offered by Social Security can help these individuals, mental health disorders will make it harder to actually acquire the needed benefits as many individuals may be unable to finish or follow-up on the application.

This is especially true for those with schizophrenia, a mental health disorder which causes hallucinations, delusions, mood alterations and an inability to complete day-to-day tasks. These symptoms cause many to lose their jobs and/or homes and make it harder to get the disability benefits that they so desperately need. This may be because they are unable to advocate for themselves or navigate the complex system because of a lack of mental organization caused by their illness.

In response to this issue, Social Security has completed a pilot program that began in San Francisco that gives the homeless in the city with schizophrenia presumptive qualification for much needed Supplemental Security Income benefits. In brief, this program puts people with schizophrenia at the front of the line allowing them to get their benefits faster.

The program, dubbed “The Homeless with Schizophrenia Presumptive Pilot Demonstration,” allows staff to quickly make an initial diagnosis for schizophrenia and provide benefits for schizophrenic individuals within a shorter time period than usual. For some, this means receiving benefits within ten days instead of waiting six months or more. The program also allows staff at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Human Services Agency to identify clients and help them complete applications for benefits. In addition to this initial help, schizophrenic homeless are given help managing their finances by the Conard House, which is a nonprofit homeless support agency.

The program began in 2012 in San Francisco with 78 participants who all received presumptive payments with 68 of the participants gaining permanent benefits. This pilot program has since expanded to Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, helping to make a huge difference among a population made vulnerable by a debilitating disease. This is a huge step in the right direction in California’s effort to care for its homeless with mental health disorders.

The pilot program began in 2012 and its evaluation should be completed by April 2015 to see if it is in fact helpful and effective in the long run. The result of this evaluation will determine whether the program continues or not.

The program can obviously be very beneficial to those with schizophrenia who are also dealing with homelessness. Homelessness obviously compounds the issues caused by schizophrenia making the availability of benefits that much more important. The reduction in wait time can also provide shelter for many of them with the tools they need to find help for their mental illness. The housing also makes it easier for agencies to follow-up with applications for permanent benefits. The sooner these benefits are available to those with schizophrenia the better, as the longer schizophrenia goes untreated the worse the symptoms will get, often ending with self-harm, suicide or death caused by other circumstances.

Schizophrenia is a problematic disease that causes afflicted individuals to suffer from depression, hallucinations or delusions, an inability to perform daily tasks, an inability to pay attention or focus and an inability to use information that has been received. These symptoms make it hard for schizophrenics to determine what reality is or to perform tasks needed for day-to-day life. If symptoms are bad enough to cause job loss and homelessness it is likely that many of these individuals are without proper medication. Hopefully, with presumptive benefits such as income and/or housing, many of these individuals will be able to gain the treatment they need to control their schizophrenia, get their lives back in order and lead happier, healthier lives.

If you would like to learn more about schizophrenia or treatment for schizophrenia, please visit or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.

Written by Brianna Gibbons, Sovereign Health Group writer

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