Homeless and Bipolar: Is There Help?

Reader’s Question

My name is Luke, and I am from Oregon USA. I have been diagnosed with manic bi-polar disorder and upon my own research am convinced I also suffer from DID and Schizophrenia. While I have much potential, I can no longer manage my life. I just lost my apartment and job due to a related incident, and it almost seems like I am sabotaging myself. Is there any help out there? I feel like I have nowhere to turn and time is not on my side as I am now homeless. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Psychologist’s Reply

You didn’t mention how you were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder — through a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health agency, etc. Help is available however.

The main requirement for help is to enroll in the community mental health system. Almost every county in every state in the United States has a mental health center. These MH centers are often the entry and enrollment points for the wide number of services available in the community. By enrolling for services, you become eligible for programs such as:

  • Psychiatric and other mental health treatment
  • Support and counseling groups
  • Referral for special housing in the community
  • Support for vocational and rehabilitation programs
  • Links to other community programs for housing, shelter, food
  • Emergency care and shelter
  • Educational materials related to your condition
  • Assistance with obtaining funding from state and federal sources

The second requirement is to explore your eligibility. If you are under psychiatric care in the US and can prove that with a statement from a psychiatrist or psychologist, you may be eligible for temporary public assistance funding, housing, food, medical care, and emergency support. Do you have a statement of psychiatric disability? Most community programs require some proof of eligibility — often just a physician’s statement.

Vocational or job services should also be available in your area. The federal government has created a One-Step vocational program that is often operated by your local welfare department or Community Action Program (in Ohio). These programs often help you find a job, pay for gas, help you write a resume, etc.

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In short, a lot of help is available in many areas. You must first enter each system. An appointment and consultation is required for the mental health system and a physician’s statement for other programs. Once you get into the system, you can then be referred to other programs as needed.

Update: June 27, 2007
I received additional information from a reader that may be important. The comment offers “You might want to add to your response to the homeless man, Luke, that he might begin by going to the local chapter of the Salvation Army where they can help him contact the state and local resources he needs. You might have included in your response a list of locations in Oregon. A friend of mine has a brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and homeless in Venice Beach, CA for the last two years. The local chapter fed him, a social worker counseled him weekly, and, when he was ready, walked him through the process of getting hooked into the community mental health system by helping him fill out the paperwork, and making phone calls and appointments.”

“Kudos to Luke for reaching out for help. He’s on the right track, but he needs a hand to help him put your suggestions into action. Taking him to the next level by providing the addresses of the local Salvation Army chapters would have been extremely valuable information for him.”

This reader reply reminds us that almost all communities have “gatekeepers” – people or organizations that can help us contact other groups or resources. Contacting a gatekeeper is often the best way to obtain the multiple services in a community.

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