According to Dee Torres, director of homeless services for the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (formerly the Economic Opportunity Commission), one of the threads that runs through each of these individual’s lives is mental illness.According to the most recent countywide Homeless Enumeration, children account for some 49 percent of the 4,000 people who reported themselves as homeless. That number may be accurate, and it’s a harsh indictment of our society at large and this county in particular if that’s the case.But Torres and those who work with the homeless at the Prado Day Center, the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and other homeless outreach services around the county aren’t seeing as many homeless children as they are those who are abjectly homeless and mentally ill.In fact, case management statistics show that 64 percent of those seeking help are found to be clinically mentally ill, with many of those abusing alcohol or drugs.Now, if you’re looking to blame Ronald Reagan for closing mental hospitals during his tenure as governor during the 1970s, thus releasing a torrent of mentally ill homeless people onto California streets, keep your powder dry. Lawsuits by the ACLU and other liberals were just as responsible for closing hospitals.The antidote to institutionalization, they believed at the time — and still do — is one of fully funding medical treatment. Before that happens, though, those who live along the banks of San Luis Creek have to be located and brought within the system. And that’s what Torres is doing.
Life under the bridge: Homeless and mentally ill in SLO County | The Tribune & SanLuisObispo.com