NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - Getting social services and mental help is a daily battle for many of New York City's homeless. Ralph Crump, 58, has been a father, a husband, a construction worker, and before that even a basketball player. He's also been better. Today, Crump faces an uphill battle. He is homeless and mentally ill. He is also not alone. Dr. Jeff Gardere, a psychologist, says that one estimate suggests that 250,000 homeless people have mental illnesses.
I walked with Crump back to the Fort Washington men's shelter, where I met 27-year-old Michael Welch from Brooklyn. His goal is to break into the music industry. Simi Samuel Reed has been living here for four months. He says they treat him for bipolar disorder. Crump found his way here after bouncing around the last year and change. He gets treatment, as well. [WATCH SPECIAL REPORT ON HOMELESSNESS]
Walk down West 168th Street, not far away from Columbia University, and you can see this thing doesn't discriminate by age or by race. All of the men here have mental health issues, are homeless, and on some level are falling thru the cracks.
"There are many issues when we're dealing with the mentally ill who are homeless," Gardere says. "A lot theme became homeless because there are no psychiatric beds."
Gardere says being homeless exposes even mentally stable people to what he calls a downward drift towards psychosis, depression, and drug abuse. When you're dealing with someone who is mentally ill to begin with, the issues only compound. Many people on the street resort to self-medicating.
"Many times we see mental illness as a weakness and not as a real medical problem," Gardere says. "So we got to get rid of that stigma and instead see it as being a medical psychological issue that with treatment can get better."