Helping the Homeless Who are Mentally Ill (Part 2)

This is the second installment on the topic of helping the homeless who are mentally ill. With a basic knowledge of the issues these people confront, knowledgable Christian workers can make a huge difference in their lives.

A.       Understanding “Dual Diagnosis”  – Up to one-third of today’s homeless adults are mentally ill.   The trend toward “deinstitutionalization” of the mentally ill has meant that our city streets are now being flooded with people who at one time would have been hospitalized for their problems.   As many as half of them are also addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.   Many are “self-medicating” – using addictive substances to cope with their mental problems.   Social service professionals usually do not like working with these “dually diagnosed” people because they can be so demanding and time-consuming.   They can be too destructive and troubled for the typical addiction recovery program.   And, mental health workers shy away from them because they often do not stay sober long enough for treatments to be effective.   So, they end up at an urban mission.

B.       Gaining a Basic Understanding of Mental Illness  – The first step in working with dually diagnosed individuals is to gain a general understanding of mental illness in general; its causes, symptoms, and treatment.   Our staff members must learn how to identify such conditions as schizophrenia, bi-polar disease (manic-depression), and clinical depression so they can know when it is time to make a mental health referral.   The good news is that, thanks to great advances in pharmacological technology, even those with severe mental problems can live a relatively stable life.   Combining the right medication with some simple tools for recovery can help even the most severely mentally ill people to find sobriety and function on a reasonably healthy level.   Because mental illness cannot be treated effectively as long as the active use of drugs and alcohol continues, we do quite a bit when we provide these individuals with a safe Christian environment where they can get off of drugs and alcohol.   Because people with these problems do respond to the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, we can reach out to them spiritually, as well.

C.       Networking with Local Mental Health Agencies  –   The key to helping the dually diagnosed is good “case management” – long-term support working in tandem with local mental health professionals.   It is vital that we develop contact in local mental health agencies who understand our programs and philosophy.   They can be especially helpful in performing screening of those who we suspect might have mental problems.   I have found that most are very willing to work with a mission program if they know it is safe and well-organized.   In general, mental health workers are glad to know their patients will have the supervision they need in order to stay on their prescribed medications.   It is important to encourage residents to sign a release of information form that authorizes the clinic’s personnel to talk with you about their on-going treatment.

D.       Health Screening Before Starting a Recovery Program is Essential  – Anyone who wants to come into a recovery program should have a thorough medical examination.   Many behavioral problems have a biophysical basis, not related to mental illness.   For instance, such medical problems as diabetes and hypothyroidism can be causes of depression.     Additionally, a health screening is especially important if a person comes to our program with a bag full of pill bottles.   If he is taking mood altering drugs he really doesn’t need, he never actually gets sober.   The truth is, doctors sometimes hand out pills to alcoholics and addicts almost indiscriminately.   Addicts often complain to doctors about the symptoms they know will get them certain types of mood altering medications.   They will talk about how they can’t sleep at night, or how nervous and jumpy they are in order to get drugs prescribed to them.   So, when a person comes to us with a sack full of medications, how do we know whether or not they really need those pills?   It is certainly not appropriate for staff members without medical training to decide which medications a resident should take.   This is another type of situation that is best handled by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional in the community who is sympathetic to our ministry, to help us sort this all out.

E.       Adult Foster Care: An Option for   Long-term Care  – Our ultimate goal with most of the addicts in our recovery programs ought to be “working ourselves out of a job.”   We ought always to be looking toward the day when they return to society as employed, sober citizens, relying on God, the church, and the recovering community for their on-going support.   In other words, we truly succeed when they no longer need us.   However, those with mental disabilities – the mentally ill and retarded – might never be able to function in society without on-going supervision and care.   There is a growing trend among rescue missions to minister to these individuals through providing a safe, structured Christian home and by serving as Representative Payee for those who receive Supplimental Security Income (SSI).

By Michael Liimatta, Director of City Vision University  which has an  Addiction Studies program  designed for Christian workers that has a course dedicated to working with addicts who also suffer from mental illness.

See also Helping the Homeless Who are Mentally Ill (Part 1)

Helping the Homeless Who are Mentally Ill (Part 1)

Nearly one in four homeless individuals suffers from a severe mental disability(1).   People with various forms of mental illness frequent urban missions for temporary food and shelter. Some express a desire to participate in long-term rehabilitation and recovery programs.   The most common forms of mental illness among the homeless are schizophrenia and the affective disorders (bipolar and major depression).(2)   Because I have recently received so many inquiries regarding how to best minister to the mentally ill in a urban mission setting, we will dedicate the next few installments of this column to this subject.

A.       Why so many of the mentally ill are homeless  – Over the past thirty years, we have seen a a trend of “deinstitutionalizing” the mentally ill. It was determined that with the proper support and therapy, as well as the right combination of medicines, the mentally ill could function better within society and achieve an independent life.(3)   Theoretically it sounds like a good idea.   The goal has been to give the mentally ill more dignity and independence by placing them in a supportive community setting instead of a hospital.     In too many situations, the mentally ill were released from institutions without proper support networks in place, and as a result, become homeless.   Additionally, the very nature of mental illness causes sufferers to lose the ability to function in a socially-acceptable manner. When their families and other social networks cannot (or will not) support them any longer, they find themselves on the streets.   The latter situation is especially true for those who are referred to as “dual diagnosis” – suffering from both mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction.

B.       We can help the homeless who are mentally ill  
– According to the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, only 5-7% of homeless persons with mental illness need to be institutionalized; most can live in the community with the appropriate supportive housing options (Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992).   The problem is, so many do not have access to supportive housing and/or other treatment services like case management, housing, and treatment.

The severe forms of mental illness are caused primarily by chemical imbalances that interfere with normal brain activity.   Major advances in psychiatric pharmacology have resulted in highly effective medications that can help mentally ill people live relatively stable lives.   A carefully regulated regimen of proper medications can even allow them to successfully participate in long-term rehab/recovery programs.

C.       Developing a “team approach”  – Few urban missions have medical professionals on their staffs to diagnose mental illnesses and prescribe the proper treatment for the various psychiatric disorders.   Therefore, it is absolutely essential that mission staff members become acquainted with local mental health providers.   In larger cities, there can be a number of options available, which can make it easier to find mental health professionals who share our values.   Even where options are limited, most Christian workers will find that a good working relationship can be established, especially if an effort is made to keep the lines of communication open between the urban mission and the mental health facility.

D.       Knowing when a mental health referral is needed  – Too often, urban mission workers who have not learned to recognize the symptoms of mental illness have become frustrated and discouraged in their efforts to help those who suffer.   Understanding is the key to effectively ministering to those who suffer from mental disabilities.   In upcoming articles, we will look at the most common forms of mental illness – depression, pyschosis, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.   We will also discuss the most common medications used to treat these diseases and how urban missions can help those suffering from mental illness to attain a satisfying life.

See also, Helping the Homeless Who Are Mentally Ill (Part 2)


1.       Waxman LD, Peterson K, McClure, M. A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America’s

2.       Fischer P, Breakey W. Homelessness and mental health: an overview. International Journal of Mental Health. 1986;14:6-41.

3.       Stubbs, Pat (1998). Broken promises:The story of deinstitutionalization.1998, September 25.

Introduction to E-marketing

Marketing Your Web Site: Attracting Your Target Audience
Michael Liimatta, Director of Education, AGRM



  • E-marketing is not simply getting lots of visitors, it is attracting your target audience(s)
  • E-marketing is most effective when a variety of methods are used
  • E-marketing efforts must be monitored for best results.

Why users return to the their favorite web sites

  • High Quality Contest – 75%
  • Easy to Use – 66%
  • Quick Download Time 58%
  • Frequent Updates – 54%


Design Strategies

  • Who is the site for? What sort of content/experience do they want?
  • Why would they want to visit our web site? Why would they want to come back again?”
  • What do we expect from the site? How will we know it’s effective?


Content Attracts Visitors

  • Avoid “online brochures”
  • Keep links current
  • Make sure users can contact you
  • Make sure “someone is minding the store” by giving a staff person the job of updating and monitoring the   web site.

Avoid These Mistakes

  • Static “online brochures”
  • Outdated Content
  • Dead Links
  • Difficult navigation schemes
  • Unattractive design
  • Extremely long download times


What is a Search Engine?

  • Have automated programs (“spiders”) that follow links to index sites and score pages based on proprietary guidelines.
  • There is no human judgment involved.
  • Text of web pages is indexed so when a user enters a search query, the search engine scans its database for pages that provide the best match.
  • We can expedite the process by submitting URLs to the search engines.


Meta Tags

  • Proper use of HTML meta tags is the key to creating web sites that can be found by Internet users.
  • Coding that is embedded in a web page’s HTML but is not visible through a web browser.
  • Provide search engines, like AltaVista, Yahoo, and Excite, with data that is essential for effective indexing of web sites.



Most Important Meta Tags

  • TITLE of the page
  • DESCRIPTION of the page (or entire site if they are on the home page)
  • KEYWORDS are used to assist search engine to properly index the page.


Meta Tag Example



<title>KCPhilanthroNET | Job Source</title>

<meta name=”DESCRIPTION” content=”Online database listing career opportunities with local nonprofit organizations – sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Council on Philanthropy.”>

<meta name=”KEYWORDS” content=”Kansas, City, Missouri, nonprofit, organizations, organization, careers, jobs, job, Director, director, Executive, Development, development, manager, administrator, Coordinator”>



How Long to Get Listed?

  • Altavista         1 – 2 weeks
  • Excite, Lycos   4 weeks
  • HotBot   2 weeks
  • Google   4 – 6 weeks
  • Infoseek-Go 6 – 8 weeks
  • Northern Light     2 – 4 weeks
  • Webcrawler       3 months


What is a Directory?

  • Human editors review web pages and organize them into categories with brief descriptions. (Yahoo, LookSmart, DMOZ)
  • A keyword search will only look for matches in the descriptions, so carefully describe your site when submitting it.
  • While good content is necessary for search engines, both good content AND visual appeal are mandatory in human-edited directories.


Reciprocal Linking

  • Search the web for sites with topics related to your own using search engines and directories.
  • Contact the site owner personally to ask for a link to your site.
  • They are more likely to do so if you add a link to their web site from yours.
  • Follow up on linking requests


Effective Banner Ads

  • Paid Ads —   industry average click-through ratio around 0.4%. Compares to rate for direct 1.0% – 1.5% mail
  • Link Exchanges — Display banner ads on your site to earn displays on other web sites.
  • Targeted — find sites that match audience
  • Reach — Expose the greatest number of users to the banners
  • Creative Quality – Start out with several different banners and pull the least effective out of rotation after 1-2 weeks.
  • Creative Variety – To maximize clickthroughs, rotate banners often, since the rates goes down steadily the longer the banner is up.


E-mail Marketing

  • Opt-in only (with opt-out clear)
  • Collect visitors e-mail addresses on the web site.
  • Use off-line response devices to give constituents an opportunity to receive updates via e-mail


Evaluating E-Marketing

  • Of all media, web sites are probably the easiest to track.
  • Effective monitoring helps in decisions related to content and design.
  • Good feedback allows you to focus on the strategies that are working best.
  • Evaluation Methods
  • User Feedback
  • Search Engine Rankings
  • Web server log reports
  • “Real World” results — gifts, registrations, memberships, etc.


Summary – Successful Sites

  • Utilize an E-marketing strategy
  • Are designed effectively and include Meta Tags
  • Include good content that is updated regularly
  • Are E-marketed using a mix of tools
  • Are evaluated to measure success


Web Marketing Resources


written   04/21/2001