Organization works to find homes for the mentally ill

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The Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health accepts donations to provide a box full of basics when it places people in a home. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health accepts donations to provide a box full of basics when it places people in a home. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

People suffering from mental illness make up a large part of the homeless population. When they are on the streets, they often don't get medical help and can't hold onto a job. The Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health tries to give them a home base.

“He was first diagnosed with depression at age 12,” said Dick Dunseath. “My son is as kind and gentle as anyone I know.”

Dunseath spoke with great affection for his son, Mike, who is now 37 years old. Mike suffers from a type of schizophrenia. Dunseath said he had his first break from reality at the age of 17.

“It has always turned into deeper psychosis,” he said. “Street drug use, back to a hospital, back to a residential treatment center, back to an apartment, back to the hospital. This recycling has gone on for many years.”

The struggles for Mike and the family are why Dunseath is involved with the Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health. The organization is devoted to keeping the mentally ill from homelessness.

“We feel that housing is healthcare,” said Director of Housing Nicky Stevens. “Finding them a decent, affordable place to live, we can attack the problem head on.”

Stevens said they currently have more than 1,800 homes and apartments across Maricopa County, but they could use many more.

“Probably 5,000,” she said.

Stevens pointed to studies that estimate 30 percent of the homeless population suffers from a mental illness. But she believes it is likely higher.

The Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health takes donations to provide a box full of basics when it places people in a home, things such as plates and cooking utensils. But this is just a start.

“I think just assisting them with a hand up and getting them into housing,” Stevens said. “We can start addressing whatever needs led them to be on the streets.”

There are other agencies that help with medication and job opportunities. But a home is a base from which to form a safe life.

“If you don't have housing,” Dunseath said, “you're not going to get the rest of the things that can help you. It's pretty hard to stay on your medication if you don't have a safe place to live."

The Arizona Foundation for Behavioral Health is hosting an event Sunday, April 26. It is a discussion about sports and concussions and mental health. If you are interested in more information, go to their website at www.azfbh.org.

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