Many studies have reported that the prevalence of mental illness and cognitive disability is higher among homeless individuals compared to the general population, and the rates of mental illness among the homeless population have recently increased. This study compared causes of homelessness or barriers to escaping homelessness for people with/without mental illness/cognitive disability, revealed problems with the Japanese homeless policy, and proposed an effective and necessary support system.
The participants were 114 homeless individuals. A psychiatric diagnostic interview and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, version III were used to measure participants’ mental health and cognitive abilities. A questionnaire was administered comprising 17 items related to the causes of their homelessness and barriers to escaping from it. Participants were divided into four groups: with/without mental illness or cognitive disability, and a Fisher's exact test was used to compare the questionnaire results.
Individuals with cognitive disabilities considered bad relationships with their family members to be the cause of their homelessness. Conversely, normal individuals considered their homelessness to be the result of debt more so than did individuals with mental problems. Individuals with mental illness had more difficulties escaping homelessness than did either normal individuals or individuals with cognitive disability. This tendency was observed most strongly among individuals with both mental illness and cognitive disability.
The difficulties with human relationships hid behind economic problems, which most homeless individuals considered to be the cause of their homelessness. Furthermore, these difficulties were exacerbated among those individuals with mental problems.