The United States has failed its citizens who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI). Homelessness is one of the most obvious manifestations of this failure. The combination of a lack of effective treatment, inadequate entitlement programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and subpar housing options form systemic barriers that prevent people suffering from mental illness from being able to obtain adequate housing. Cultural beliefs within the United States regarding who is homeless and what homelessness means also play a significant role in the development of positively impactful social welfare programs.

Part II of this Note reviews the history of treatment for persons with SPMI—specifically how that treatment has evolved, the history of federal policies regarding SSI, SSDI and housing, and societal beliefs regarding homelessness and mental illness that have impacted policymaking decisions. Part III looks at these same areas from a current perspective and addresses the current issues and some possible solutions. Part IV discusses how lack of effective treatment, poor disability programs, and the need for better housing options work together to form systemic barriers for people with SPMI. Part IV also address how the cultural beliefs in the United States regarding people who have SPMI and are homeless serve as an independent barrier to policy change. Ultimately, this Note argues that homelessness is a product of system failures rather than individual factors.