Mental illness affects millions of Canadians and many of those are among the homeless population.

In Calgary on any given night, 3500 people are sleeping on the streets or in the city’s shelters.

While it is not known exactly how many of Calgary’s homeless suffer from a mental illness, those who work and offer support to people on the street say the number is high.

There are several organizations in the city that focus on helping people who struggle with mental illness to find housing and support.

The Pathways to Housing program works with about 160 chronically homeless people in Calgary who suffer from major mental illnesses or struggle with the justice system.

The program’s philosophy is to immediately put people in their own homes and then begin intensive treatment.

Officials say those are important steps to breaking the cycle of homelessness.

“When they fall into homelessness, they simply don't have the skills, the ability or the resources to get themselves out of homelessness without supports so they tend to experience long, long periods of homelessness in the Calgary region. Sometimes seven to twenty years in the shelter system,” said Sue Fortune from the alex, Pathways to Housing program.

Having a home of their own allows Pathways to Housing clients to be part of their community and active in their own recovery.

The program also offers weekly support groups to help people with things like substance abuse, illness management, cooking, computer training, and recreational and social activities.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is just one week away and is aimed at ending the stigma of mental illness and raising funds to support programs across the country.

Join us for the conversation on January 28th and tweet, text and talk about how mental illness affects you and your family.

For more information on the Bell Let’s Talk initiative, click HERE.

(With files from Rylee Carlson)