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The Source: Mentally Ill And Homeless

Courtesy of Dr. Robert Okin

It’s cold outside by San Antonio standards and the cold often times means the beds for the homeless population quickly fill up in our city's shelters.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a million Americans accessed their homeless prevention programs, but there were still 610,000 homeless people in America at the beginning of 2013.  

Not everyone on the street is mentally ill, and the vast majority of people who are mentally ill aren’t homeless. But for the 20-25 percent--or over 150,000--of the United States' homeless population that are severely mentally ill, odds are they will remain on the streets. 

It is easy to avoid eye contact, to cross to the other side of the street when you see them acting unusual, to believe that they brought their fate upon themselves. But when we limit human contact we make it easier to ignore their plight and run the risk of forgetting that they are--in fact--human.

What does it mean to be homeless and mentally ill in the U.S. today?


  • Dr. Robert Okin, former chief of psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco.  His new book is entitled "Silent Voices: People with Mental Disorders on the Street"


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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org