Legislature Investigates Connection Between Homelessness and Mental Illness

With the homeless population in San Antonio and across Texas rising, the Texas Legislature is looking into robust mental health intervention programs to help get a handle on the problem, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Brit Boston of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, told a Legislative committee that mental illness is a serious contributor to the problem of homelessness.

"In 2017, a count during one day in Texas, found that just over 23,500 people were experiencing homelessness," she said.  "Of those, just over 5100 were found to be suffering from severe mental illness."

Kenny Wilson, CEO of the Haven for Hope, San Antonio's model homeless recovery program, says he sees those numbers as well.

"We have all the diagnosis, from schizophrenia, bipolar, general depression," Wilson said.  "We find just becoming homeless is traumatic in itself."

This is the second time during the interim that the Legislature has delved into the problem of mental illness.  Creating new programs to recognize mental illness and provide treatment for people with issues was front and center in the debate over school safety following the Santa Fe school shooting in May.

"We know that there is a link between illnesses link between conditions like bipolar disorder and schzophrenia with is associated with a risk of homelessness," said State Rep Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) who heads the House Urban Affairs Committee.

Wilson says the big issue is a lack of site-based supportive housing.

"We have a waiting list right now from the Housing Authority of about seven years," he said.

Alvarado says the Texas Department of State Health Services is expected to put together a comprehensive program to fight mental illness in the state's homeless population.


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