Mental Illness and Homelessness: How Suburban Cities Can Reduce the Impacts on Their Communities

One need only look to recent media reports to see examples of negative encounters between law enforcement and individuals with mental illness who are experiencing homelessness. For example, a man experiencing mental illness and homelessness in Fullerton, California, was killed during a violent 2011 encounter with several police officers who were attempting to arrest him. This incident resulted in continuous protests, civil unrest, and threats against the officers and their families. The incident also resulted in criminal charges for two police officers who were accused of murdering the man; the officers were eventually acquitted. In April 2016, officers from the San Francisco, California, Police Department were forced to shoot and kill a man with mental illness who charged at them with a knife as they were attempting to clean out the homeless encampment where he lived. This incident was almost immediately followed by protests, calls for the chief of police to resign, and calls for criminal charges against the officers involved.