On Monday, Shermain Miles pleaded guilty in a Cook County court to trespassing and public drinking — separate cases that mark her 396th arrest in the past 35 years. Judge Peggy Chiampas sentenced Miles to time served after she agreed to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.

"All of us are reaching out to you and offering you, maybe for the first time in your life, a hand, OK?" Chiampas told Miles. "But you've got to reach out and grab all of our hands as well."

An in-depth report by the Chicago Sun-Times in April quoted several people saying that Miles is a public nuisance, deserving to be put in prison, and "should never be released." But Judge Chiampas saw things a little differently.

Miles had a troubled childhood. Her mother physically abused her and her two sisters, something from which she may have never mentally recovered. "We were all abused by my mom, but Shermain was abused more than any of us," Miles' sister told the Sun-Times. "It's the root cause of all her problems."

Miles and her sisters were placed in separate foster homes after their mother's physical abuse was reported. Their mother died in 1994, and they never knew their father. Miles' life on the streets began at the tender age of 14. Now 51-years-old, Miles is homeless and does what she can to survive.

A 2009 report by The National Coalition for the Homeless reveals a national link between homelessness and mental illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 20 to 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States suffers from a severe form of mental illness. That's compared to only six percent of the general population that is severely mentally ill. A 2008 survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness in single adults.

Stefano Esposito of the Sun-Times did briefly note that mental illness could contribute to Miles' behavior saying, "The frustrating truth: The system - strapped by overcrowded prisons and cuts to mental health funding - hasn't been able to save Miles from herself or to help the communities she menaces."

Like many of the nation's homeless, Miles may have just needed the resources to get help. She has been arrested 65 times for disorderly conduct and used about 83 different aliases. One florist on the north side of Chicago called the police on Miles 25 times last summer.

Miles has been held in Logan Correctional facility in Illinois since December for a parole violation. When the judge offered her treatment instead of jail time, she expressed her gratitude for the encouraging show of support.

"I just want to thank you," Miles said to the judge. "I'm not that person."