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SAMHSA News - March/April 2005, Volume 13, Number 2

From the Administrator: A Life in the Community Starts with a Home

photo of Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., SAMHSA AdministratorBetween 2 and 3 million Americans experience homelessness at some point each year. Of these, an estimated 20 to 25 percent have a serious mental illness and up to half of those with a serious mental illness also have an alcohol or drug use problem.

Chronic homelessness results from a confluence of many factors, including lack of adequate income, diminished social supports, and a shortage of affordable housing. Serious mental illness and substance use create additional risk factors, affecting virtually every aspect of life, including self-care, money management, schooling, work, and social relations. Serious mental illness and drug abuse not only increase risk factors, they also increase the difficulty of overcoming homelessness.

Since the passage of the 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act—the first comprehensive Federal legislation to address homelessness—we have learned much about effective ways to prevent and overcome chronic homelessness. There is no single, simple solution. Rather, success requires engagement at many levels.

For example, any successful effort must involve government at all levels, including Federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, community organizations, service providers, consumers of services, and family members.

Similarly, people who are homeless and have mental illnesses and substance use disorders need a diverse array of services in addition to treatment. These include outreach, case management, housing options, primary health care, and a range of support services such as rehabilitation and employment counseling.

Finally, individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders should not have to negotiate multiple service systems in which health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, social services, and housing services are separate and uncoordinated. They must be able to access these services from systems that are integrated and easily maneuvered.

SAMHSA continues to prioritize the national goals of ending homelessness through a rich array of services grants and technical assistance activities. To optimize our resources and staff talents, we manage our homelessness portfolio through a matrix approach relying heavily on each of SAMHSA’s Centers and Offices.

Our vision at SAMHSA is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity for a life in the community. Clearly, the pillars of a fulfilling life must be built on a foundation of safe, stable, and comfortable shelter.

At the same time, a life in the community means not just a place, but also a sense of independence balanced with a sense of belonging. The rewards that accrue from a job, meaningful relationships with family and friends, and having a little corner of the world to call one’s own can replace the walls of emptiness, isolation, and loneliness created by mental illness, drug use, and homelessness, and provide the key that opens the door to a new life of recovery. End of Article

Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
Administrator, SAMHSA

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Inside This Issue

Initiative Helps End Chronic Homelessness
Part 1
Part 2
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SAMHSA News - March/April 2005, Volume 13, Number 2

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