The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that between 20 and 25 percent of the nation’s homeless population suffers from some form of severe mental illness.
Whether these individuals struggle with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, depression or some other emotional or psychological trauma, far too often it impacts their ability to perform tasks essential to daily life, which often includes household management.
Several years ago, members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors were asked to share their assessment of the three major causes of homelessness in their communities. Mental illness was the third most prevalent cause of homelessness for single adults. It was also listed among the top three causes for more than 12 percent of homeless families.
In response to these needs California voters passed the Mental Health Services Act in 2004. In 2016, the state legislature passed another initiative to further assist counties in responding to a growing need for housing to accommodate those with mental health issues. The measure titled No Place Like Home, was intended to build or rehabilitate housing for people with mental illness who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
To provide funding for the No Place Like Home initiative the state needs to borrow the $2 billion dollars needed to fund it. A “yes” vote on Proposition 2 will authorize the state to borrow $2 billion dollars through the sale of bonds.
Although this appears to be a warranted use of tax payer dollars the initiative is opposed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a grassroots advocacy group of people affected by mental illness with strong support of their families as well as member of faith-based communities.
They claim it is not that they are opposed to well thought-out plans to end homelessness for the mentally ill, but because they are more worried about the potential for Proposition 2 to take from programs that support those with mental health issues and instead, use the money to line the pockets of developers, bond holders and bureaucrats. Those opposed to Proposition 2 also expressed a belief that solutions to the problem of homelessness should be left to county officials to find and fund solutions to this issue.
The reality is however, solving the homeless problem for those with mental illnesses would be a heavy lift for counties around the state. The bottom line is, the need to house these vulnerable members of our communities exists and must be solved. I don’t believe they should be left to languish on the street. As a state and in our local communities we can and must do better.
There is no easy solution to the homeless issue in general and especially for those with a mental illness—yet, we must begin somewhere. To me, Proposition 2 seems like as good a place as any to start.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.