Archive for Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homelessness, mental illness issues addressed at public forum

June 30, 2009


Community members attend homeless health forum

Community members gathered at a forum to discuss overcoming mental health issues and challenges. Enlarge video

More forums

• Aug. 31: Crisis training for dealing with mental illness

• Sept. 28: A look at issues of mental illness and homelessness specific to Lawrence

• Nov. 30: Recap of forum series focusing on possible solutions resulting from the series dialogue

All forums are at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. For more information, contact Steve Ozark at 785-760-3143 or by e-mail at

Area residents struggling with mental illness and homelessness had the opportunity to share their experiences at a forum Monday night at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

The forum, which was the first of a four-part series on homelessness and mental illness, was organized by the Coalition on Homeless Concerns and the Recovery and Hope Network, an area agency that assists those with mental illnesses.

The aim of the forum was trying to help the public understand the complex dynamic of mental illness and homelessness, said Steve Ozark, organizer and vice chairman of the Coalition on Homeless Concerns.

“We’re here to educate; we’re here to demystify,” Ozark said.

Forum participant Ed Maupin, who has been homeless multiple times in his life, said he’s benefited from the social services in Lawrence, but that there remain gaps in helping the mentally ill find permanent housing.

“I think the public needs to know that there are people falling through the cracks,” he said.

The cracks keep widening, and more people in Lawrence are falling through them, with the closing of the Salvation Army’s overnight shelter and overcrowding at the Lawrence Community Shelter, Maupin said.

“Right now it’s bad. They (the homeless) don’t have anywhere else to go,” Maupin said.

And while the input of advocates and other community members regarding solutions to assisting the mentally ill homeless population in Lawrence is important, hearing from those who know the issue firsthand is also needed, said forum participant Lesa Weller.

“Those voices are the experts. They know what it’s like to be homeless and mentally ill,” said Weller, who is now the director at the Recovery and Hope Network, but was once homeless while dealing with a mental illness.

Weller said she hopes the experiences shared by those at Monday’s forum, as well as at the three remaining forums, will assist the community in working toward solutions to the problems of mental illness and homelessness in Lawrence.


Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

The public is going to have to hear more specifics before they are convinced to be really involved. What is your mental illnes How did your mental illness cause you to lose your home? How do you spend your days as a homeless person? What precisely did you do to get housing? What kind of help was more beneficial. The comments made in the article are just to vague. Also, the article does not say how many were at the forum.

Jim Williamson 8 years, 9 months ago

The above comment simply points to the reality that Lawrencians are in a monumental state of denial when it comes to mental illness in their community. I guess it's just easier to refer to the mentally ill as "local color" and talk about how much "character" they add to Lawrence's college town atmosphere.

journeymanstation 8 years, 9 months ago

Irish you put value on things that were spoken about. With the idea of how many people were there? I think a lot of great things were spoken, and written down without a big crowd to here them. Even a crazy person has something worth hearing

kssux 8 years, 9 months ago

Hey, journeymanstation... Please don't use the "C" word when refering to mental illness.

kthxbi 8 years, 9 months ago

Hey, now. Let’s not refer to the lunatics as mentally ill. We do not want to imply that they are contagious. Be sensitive people.

kansanbygrace 8 years, 9 months ago

This process has been going on for a decade and a half, at least. CHC was organized by people with the experience of homelessness and people concerned with the need to develop the services of the "safety net" promised in the early '80's that have never existed. Props should go to Hilda and Keith and Sandy and Lonnie and Marilyn and Virginia and Saunny and Craig and Craig and Phil and Tom and about 40 others (apologies for not having the whole list...every single one contributed the most valuable resource anyone can ever donate, their time and involvement) who organized and formed and incorporated the group (with establishing funds from Capital Federal), enumerated the problems, presented them to the Salvation Army who promised they were developing the comprehensive service center, and to the City and to Bert Nash's representatives and to DCCCA and the Property owners' association and several other grouups. Fifteen years later, the same list, same needs, same excuses not to do anything.
The bureaucracy is still idling in the parking lot, burning fuel and enjoying the AC. Though the CD board dismissed the CHC as "ad hoc" and dismissed the substance, they remain the parrots of "we need to study this issue" For the love of Pete, about 30 of those people are dead now and Lawrence is still stuck in 1983 inactivity.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

The number of people at the meeting would show just how concerned people in Lawrence are about this "problem". If it was just a few of the homeless talking to themselves, I can't see much being done.

mdrndgtl 8 years, 9 months ago

Does anyone have any spare change? I need to go wash my dragon...

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