Government, please take the lead to carry out homeless-friendly policies, Unsheltered need your support in mental health


The Department of Counselling and Psychology of Hong Kong Shue Yan University and ImpactHK, an NGO dedicated to helping the homeless, interviewed 89 unsheltered people aged from 21 to 78 between January and July this year, aiming to investigate their mental health conditions and past experiences.

Dr Bess LAM Yin-hung, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counselling and Psychology, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, who carried out the survey, found that nearly half of the respondents met the threshold of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that is, they had symptoms of PTSD, which is quite close to the standard of clinical diagnosis. The study also discovered that nearly three-fifths of the respondents were reportedly endured neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse prior to becoming homeless. It thus can be seen that PTSD is very prevalent among the unhoused which strengthens the link between homelessness and PTSD.

“Homelessness itself is a traumatic experience, they often face stress, violence, social isolation, and discrimination, while they are deprived of basic necessities and social support – these could all worsen the PTSD conditions,” she said (South China Morning Post, 2023).

"More than 60% of the respondents did not have any social support. In this case, PTSD and homelessness formed a vicious cycle. The days of being homeless and isolated on the streets aggravated the mental health of the patients. Meanwhile, the adverse effects of PTSD make it more difficult for patients to escape homelessness and impede their abilities to build a stable life, like finding a job." she added (HK01, 2023; Ta Kung Wen Wei Po, 2023; South China Morning Post, 2023).  

Proposed Initiatives to be taken by the Government

In response to the unhoused facing living difficulties at present, the research team recommends that the government ought to:

1) Provide professional psychological and counselling services to unsheltered people to assist them coping with PTSD and other psychological problems.

2) Arrange all-rounded integrated services for the homeless such as medical care, social services, employment training, recreational activities, and spiritual intervention and so on to support them improve their physical, mental health and even quality of life thoroughly.

3) Take the lead in implementing homeless-friendly policies so that they can truly feel that they are being supported. For example, the government can raise the public's awareness and improve the understanding of unhoused and mental health issue starting from community education perspective, thus lessening discrimination and prejudice against them. In other instance, if the public has a strong stigma and stereotypes on homeless people, this can be minimized by governmental education and community practice to establish a friendly environment in different places.

4) Offer appropriate services in advance of "possibly homeless" or "quasi-homeless" people facing life difficulties potentially afterwards. Prevention is better than cure, this can be acted as a safety net to avert the emergence of more homeless people living in the community in the future and impede them from falling into the trauma vortex again.

Online Coverage

Now News                                       [LINK 1] & [LINK 2

Radio Television Hong Kong        [LINK

South China Morning Post            [LINK]

HK01                                                  [LINK

Ta Kung Wen Wei Po                     [LINK