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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Texas Lawmakers Study Links Between Mental Illness, Homelessness

Ryan E. Poppe

State lawmakers are studying how housing instability, homelessness and mental illness are interconnected and what changes might reduce the state’s overall homeless population.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, addressed members of a joint hearing of the House’s Committees on Public Health and Urban Affairs.

“We know that there is a link between illnesses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia that have been associated with high crime risks and homelessness,” Alvarado said.

Kenny Wilson, president and CEO of Haven for Hope, a 22 acre non-profit homeless recovery center based in San Antonio, agreed with Alvarado.

“We absolutely believe there is a connection between mental health and homelessness and supportive housing to come out of that. It makes economic sense for the community; it keeps people out of the emergency rooms and mainly helps them get on track,” Wilson said.

Wilson said Haven for Hope houses an estimated 1,700 homeless men and women and provides a number of services through other non-profit partners, including mental health care.

During the 2017 legislative session, state lawmakers, as part of an effort to improve mental health care, approved more than $75 million to several local organizations and state facilities.

In terms of what can be improved, Wilson said there are only a few housing vouchers offered to someone who is homeless.

He recommended additional funding for the state’s Healthy Community Collaborative and the creation of more site-based supportive housing units for homeless men and women struggling with mental illness and unemployment.

Ryan Poppe can be reached atrpoppe@tpr.orgor on Twitter@RyanPoppe1

Copyright 2020 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.