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Providing Mental Health Care to Homeless Individuals in South Carolina

As part of Oliver Gospel's holistic approach to care, mental health treatment is provided to all long-term guests in our programs.

A mental health counselor at Oliver Gospel meets with a resident for an appointment

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. While the cause has been recognized nationally since 1949, Oliver Gospel Mission has helped meet the mental health needs of individuals experiencing homelessness or addiction since 1888.

The topic of mental health has garnered worldwide attention in recent years, with awareness, symptoms, and treatment options becoming common in daily discussions.

Despite this growth in understanding, a growing population continues to suffer from the negative effects of the mental health crisis right before our eyes: individuals experiencing homelessness.

Let's look at the numbers

  • A recent study found that 21% of individuals experiencing homelessness suffered from a Serious Mental Illness, compared to just 5.5% of the U.S. population. (source)

  • Schizophrenia affects less that 1 percent of the general U.S. population, but some estimates suggest that up to 20 percent of people experiencing homelessness are living with the disorder. (source)

  • While only 1 in 12 people in the U.S. has a diagnosed substance use disorder, 1 in 5 people experiencing homelessness suffer from a substance use disorder. (source)

  • In South Carolina, a 2022 Point-In-Time count found that of 3,608 individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night, 1,164 of those individuals suffered from mental health or substance abuse disorders. (source)

As you can see, there is a correlation between homelessness and mental health disorders, which may appear out of trauma, lingering health issues, the poverty cycle, or other causes.

The homeless population is also a difficult group to provide treatment options for. These individuals face many barriers when accessing care options, like lack of transportation, lack of proper communication channels (such as email), affordability, or the fear of being stigmatized.

This is where Oliver Gospel steps in to help our neighbors in need here in the Midlands. Guests who enroll in our long-term programming at our Men's Center and Toby's Place are provided with counseling and therapy services, free of charge, thanks to generous supporters like you.

"When people come to Oliver Gospel and Toby’s Place, one of their first needs is the need to feel safe. Many come in with trust issues because of trauma they've experienced, and they come armed with self-protective behaviors. My role is to come along side of them and create a safe space where they can express their fears, doubts and concerns without fear of judgement," Toby's Place Biblical Counselor Julie Armstrong said.

Through on-staff counselors and partners who provide therapy services, our guests can consistently address issues that have weighed them down for years in healthy ways.

These services play an essential role in our guests' transformation, preparing them for long-term success, and giving their faith in the Lord an opportunity to grow.

"They quickly learn that the counseling room is a haven for them; a place where they will be heard. This is invaluable for them as they are adjusting to so many changes and trying to regulate their emotions," Julie said.

Mental health issues are not limited to adults, either. Children can also suffer from mental health disorders. At Toby's Place, play-therapy services are provided for our children who accompany their mothers to address their mental health and developmental needs during a potentially troubling time of their childhood.

These services are provided to our guests free of charge, thanks to the generosity of partners like you. While the month of May brings awareness to mental health issues, their effects are felt all year long. Please consider donating today to help support these services in our ministry.

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