From psychiatric ward to the streets and shelters


C. Forchuk
School of Nursing
University of Western Ontario
Lawson Health Research Institute
375 South Street, Room C201 NR
London, Ontario N6A 4G5


The issue of discharge from hospital ward to the streets is seldom explored in the literature, but all too commonly experienced by individuals experiencing psychiatric disorders. The Community University Research Alliance on Housing and Mental Health sought to determine how frequently people were discharged from psychiatric wards to shelters or the street in London, Ontario, Canada. A number of data sources were accessed to determine instances of discharges to shelters or the street. Data were analysed to determine the number of moves occurring between hospital and shelter or no fixed address. All datasets revealed the problem of discharge to shelters or the street occurred regularly. All data sources used have the difficulty of likely underestimating the extent of the problem. This type of discharge occurred at least 194 times in 2002 in London, Ontario, Canada. Policies that contribute to this problem include income-support policies, the reduction in psychiatric hospital beds and the lack of community supports. Without recognition, this problem is at risk of remaining invisible with no further improvements to the situation.