Georgia panel studying homelessness urges focus on mental illness


Georgia needs to target issues around mental health and substance abuse if it wants to address the needs of the state’s homeless population, a state Senate committee said Monday.

The study committee released nine recommendations that it says will improve access to mental and behavioral health services, and in turn keep people off the streets.

“There’s (potential for) quite a few pieces of legislation revolving around mental health and substance abuse — and I think that’s a direct correlation with homelessness,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, the chairwoman of the committee.

“It is a very complicated issue, but just because it’s complicated, you shouldn’t push it aside, because eventually it’s going to bubble up,” Unterman said.

The group has met since September to take testimony on problems and possible solutions affecting the homeless, including the lack of transitional housing for those who have been recently released from prison or addiction rehabilitation programs.

There are more than 10,000 homeless people in Georgia according to a federal count done in January. That number is down about 25 percent since 2015.

Members voted to encourage the General Assembly to help locate additional housing for those who qualify for the Georgia Housing Voucher Program.

The voucher program provides rent assistance to those who have mental illness and are chronically homeless.

Unterman said though it can be difficult to get additional money for new or existing programs, she believes the study group has helped elevate the issue.

“A lot of time this issue is considered a dirty part of society,” she said. “No one wants to think about either living in the streets, living in extended stay, all the kids in schools that don’t have a home to go home (to) at night. … Even if I can’t solve the issue, I can bring the issue to the forefront.”


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

The right is still waiting for Al Franken to admit he did something wrong
The right is still waiting for Al Franken to admit he did something wrong

Did Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s resignation speech ring hollow? Some on the right sure thought so. A roundup of editorials Friday critiques Franken’s comments and the meaning behind them. From The American Spectator: From his speech, it seems Franken was the victim. If he wasn’t guilty, why did he resign? From Fox News: Maybe we missed...
The left is calling on Congress to do the right thing with the CHIP program
The left is calling on Congress to do the right thing with the CHIP program

Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to extend funding for The Children’s Health Insurance Program. Now they are fighting over how to fund it. A roundup of editorials Friday calls on Congress to do the right thing by these children and their families.  From The New York Times: A bipartisan group of governors reminds legislators that CHIP...
The left remains stunned at the GOP’s support of Roy Moore
The left remains stunned at the GOP’s support of Roy Moore

Can the Republicans claim any high ground – or separation from the president -- after the party decided to support Roy Moore? A roundup of editorials Thursday takes a look at the issue. From nj.com: How is there a place for Roy Moore in the Senate if he got kicked out of an Alabama mall? From U.S. News and World Report: Why would the GOP choose...
The right wonders why Democrats had such a hard time condemning Al Franken
The right wonders why Democrats had such a hard time condemning Al Franken

What took the left so long to call Al Franken out? A roundup of editorials Thursday takes a look at the issue. From The Washington Examiner: Why are the Democrats calling for Franken to resign? They want to grab the moral high ground. From azcentral.com: One too many accusations tip the balance against Franken. From The Boston Herald: The GOP&rsquo...
Census: Atlanta region among the worst for traffic as poverty grows
Census: Atlanta region among the worst for traffic as poverty grows

If the hours you spend idling on the Atlanta region’s congested highways aren’t enough evidence, a new U.S. Census Bureau report confirms the metro area has some of the nation’s worst traffic. To be released Thursday, the new American Community Survey’s five-year estimates show residents in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell...
More Stories