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There are myriad of mental health concerns that contribute to housing instability

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There has been increasing acknowledgment by those who live, earn, learn, play and pray in downtown Wichita over the last few years that homelessness has been on the rise. The recent annual point-in-time (or PIT) count showed that quite clearly. But being aware of the issue is quite different from having the solution.

Those with only a cursory understanding of the dynamics at play within the homeless population may cite the rather unimaginative solution of building tiny homes. But sadly, putting someone in four walls and a roof doesn’t make them housing stable any more than putting me in the garage makes me a car. There are myriad of mental health concerns that contribute to housing instability in Wichita, and those issues don’t disappear when we walk through the door. In fact, numerous surveys that study homelessness have almost uniformly arrived at agreement that mental health concerns are a significant part of the equation and include substance use disorders, serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, PTSD, broken relationships and families, and much more. Comprehensive organizations that provide wrap-around mental health services are far more likely to address these root issues and are better equipped to continue providing support after putting the individual into safe and stable housing. But these broad-based organizations still find situations where a person living with homelessness will lock their personal items away into their room in a group home or an apartment and then walk away back to their spot on the streets where they knew the processes and had the social interaction that a traditional housing situation lacks.

These are deeply-rooted circumstances, and they deserve the investment of Wichita’s business community and individuals to find new solutions that work.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.