I worked in two different psychiatric hospitals when I was younger (and studying medicine) - one was private and the other was a State run facility. Both had positives and negatives - but that aside, the statistics at that time were that roughly 1/2 or 50% of the homeless population suffered from some form of mental illness - of the total population of homeless, approximately 25% suffered from a severely debilitating form of mental illness such as schizophrenia.
I've not looked at these statistics lately... I imagine with the harsh economic times over the past decade, perhaps the overall percentage is decreased because the homeless population has grown from displaced workers who are experiencing economic hardships.
The bottom line is that if a city wants to confront "the homeless problem" - they need to provide more support to local homeless shelters.
When a person is hungry, they need to eat, and the only way to ensure they're getting a healthy meal and not being subject to food that may or may not be properly prepared or fresh - is to provide the meals for them.
This means is the wealthy people of that city don't like seeing homeless people in the streets, perhaps they should reach into their pockets and support local charities and organizations that assist the homeless. From helping them find employment to caring for those who suffer from mental illness.
The changes have to start in the community - with those who have the power to affect positive change. It's such a complex subject.
The flip side is one of the "homeless here in Ventura I've seen regularly at several locations holding up cardboard signs, asking for monetary donations to "feed their family"."
I was on my bike, adjusting an irritating brake caliper, off the road down a narrow access way between two buildings in a shopping center - when I saw this homeless person (they did not see me) carefully walk behind the building, look around, then get into a relatively new (2011-12 would be my guess) Chevy Tahoe. WHAT!?!?! They're driving a $40,000 SUV?
Seems you can make $50-100/hour getting handouts in the right location. I'm sure this person is NOT homeless - instead they are one of a growing group of Californians who find it more profitable to pander than to put on a suit and drive to an office.
Blows my mind!
The subject is made even MORE complex with people like this entering the fray, because now you can't tell if someone is truly needy or not.