Hundreds of thousands of Americans spend the night in shelters or on the streets, and a high proportion of them have serious mental illnesses. How this situation has come about and how to change it are questions that concern the general public as well as mental health professionals. There are signs that the beginning of a solution may be emerging.
About 600,000 people are homeless on any given night, and 2 million at some time in any given year. Over a five-year period, 2%–3% of the population, as many as 8 million people, will be homeless for at least one night. Of these, 80% find a home within a few weeks, but about 10% remain homeless for a year or more. The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates the number of chronically homeless at 100,000–200,000.
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