New Survey Confirms Challenge of Mental Health Among Homeless Individuals

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Association of Gospel Rescue Missions’ Recent Snapshot Survey Finds Significant Spike in People Struggling with Mental Illness Served by Rescue Missions

Among those served by rescue missions across North America, the 26th Annual Snapshot Survey reported a rise in homeless individuals who “struggle with mental illness” from 32 percent in 2014 to 37 percent in 2015—an increase of more than 15 percent.

The latest Snapshot Survey by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) shows a significant increase in the percentage of homeless individuals who struggle with mental illness.

Among those served by rescue missions across North America, the 26th Annual Snapshot Survey reported a rise in homeless individuals who “struggle with mental illness” from 32 percent in 2014 to 37 percent in 2015—an increase of more than 15 percent.

“The issue of mental illness is not new to rescue mission work,” notes AGRM President John Ashmen. “Yet after four years of relative stability in the percentage of mentally ill homeless people our missions serve, we saw a significant jump in that number. We are grateful that we are already focusing on this issue, and in fact are in the final stages of launching our 2016 Mental Health & Respite initiative.”

AGRM recently kicked off the initiative with a webinar for member missions, addressing how they can balance mental health services with meeting the other vital needs presented by clients and guests who come to local missions.

The 2016 initiative will continue by developing a uniform mental health awareness and referral plan for rescue missions. “The goal is to have a minimum of 40 missions complete a thorough mental health and respite care needs assessment,” Ashmen says, “and then to implement tools and referral systems for their homeless clients in need of such assistance.”

Building on this year’s webinar, AGRM member missions will be introduced to mental health referral systems and assessment tools through a seminar at the association’s 2016 annual convention. Director of Safety Net Provider Relations for Mission Health and Hospitals Brooks Ann McKinney, MSW, is instructor for both the recent webinar and the 2016 seminar.

AGRM’s 2015 Snapshot Survey compiled results from a survey of 17,352 homeless individuals at 105 participating AGRM member missions. “Our survey confirmed the need to reinforce our services to homeless people who may also suffer with mental illness,” Ashmen says. “This issue can be amplified and especially stressful during the Christmas season for homeless individuals and families who have yet to secure housing, and are at extra risk due to depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia. Our goal is to help our member missions with tools to care for those suffering from mental health issues.”

View a statistical comparison of findings from the last five years of the survey at http://www.agrm.org/images/agrm/Documents/Snapshot/2015/2015SnapshotYearlyComparison.pdf.

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Now in its 103rd year, AGRM has nearly 300 rescue mission members across North America. Each year, AGRM members serve approximately 66 million meals, provide more than 20 million nights of shelter and housing, assist some 45,000 people in finding employment, provide clothing to more than 750,000 people, and graduate nearly 17,000 homeless men and women from addiction recovery programs into productive living.

Rescue missions have been providing hospitality to impoverished people in America since the 1870s. They are experts at providing effective care for men, women, and children who are hungry, homeless, abused, or addicted.

AGRM is North America’s oldest and largest network of crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers, offering radical hospitality in the name of Jesus. For more information, please visit http://www.agrm.org.

To schedule an interview with AGRM president John Ashmen, please contact Brad Lewis, Director of Communications, at blewis(at)agrm(dot)org or call (719) 266-8300, ext. 103.

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