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Housing alone won’t solve homelessness. California must expand its mental health system

I have learned a lot about how easy it is for someone to fall through the cracks, especially when it comes to mental health care where all those cracks are yawning abysses.

My son lives with a serious mental illness, or SMI. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was a student at UC Berkeley. But like many with these disorders, he could not recognize his illness and refused treatment.

He went from the dorm to couch-surfing with friends to living in his car. When he lost his car, he was sleeping on sidewalks or on the heating grates outside university buildings where he once attended classes. He lived on the streets for over a dozen years, despite actually having access to housing for most of that time.

I have learned that you can’t solve homelessness without vastly improving our public mental health system. Without timely treatment and needed interventions, those with a serious mental illness deteriorate and lose housing.

Fernando Maya in his room at the PATH apartment complex in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2021. Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

by Patricia Fontana


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