Homeless With Mental Problems/Drug Abuse Issues: Human Rights Bang Heads With Compassion

large room with beds, patients, orderlies and a few parrots
Unidentified mental health hospital, closed down long ago.

With roughly one in three people who are homeless having mental health or drug abuse issues, the growing numbers of people on the streets without shelter is creating antagonism between social activists.

It comes as no surprise that the general population of an average community are exasperated by growing numbers of people who are living on the streets. Out of sight means out of mind, so a solution such as institutional care might seem attractive — involuntary commitment, served up by some ‘parental’ agency such as the police1.

Warehousing out of sight and mind those people considered a blight on a community’s tranquility is being considered by a growing number of urban administrations. “It’s only compassionate that we forcibly treat citizens who probably aren’t aware it’s for their own good, even if they don’t realize it.”

But just as some of the people living outdoors will refuse to sleep in shelters for a legitimate fear of being beaten up, do they not have a basic human right to determine their own treatment, rather than submitting to anyone else’s interpretation of their needs?

Read a detailed discussion of these issues at NPR: When homelessness and mental illness overlap, is forced treatment compassionate?


  1. Try: U.S. East & West Coasts Flirt With Incarceration Programs For Chronic Homeless