The best first step in helping someone who is homeless and suffering a mental illness is simple enough: Give them a home.
“People have to have a safe, affordable, decent place to live, and if they don't, all the other services that we have don't work very well, and they're not near as efficient,” said Michael Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa.
“Services and all the other money and expertise we lend to helping people be treated just doesn't work very efficiently when people are on the streets and homeless.”
A national mental health conference in Tulsa in September, titled, “From Housing to Recovery: Building Community, Building Lives,” will focus on how to work to end homelessness and provide affordable housing and recovery services to people who have mental illnesses.
The 2012 National Zarrow Mental Health Symposium and Mental Health America Annual Conference “is designed to provide educational opportunities for a diverse group of individuals and organizations working to eliminate homelessness and to improve the lives of people living with mental illness through affordable housing and recovery services,” according to the conference website.
The general public can attend the conference, which usually takes place in Washington, D.C.
The full conference is $450. A single-day ticket is available for $175, and a $75 ticket for a dinner event Sept. 20. People can register online at www.fromhousingtorecovery.org.
Jessie Close, an anti-stigma advocate, mental health consumer and sister of actress Glenn Close, is one of the scheduled keynote speakers. Dr. Mark Vonnegut, an author and son of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., will speak Sept. 20. Vonnegut wrote “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir,” his personal story of dealing with mental illness.