Homeless shelter see share of mental illnesses

By Jim McCabe on March 30 at 8:00am

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The director of Jacksonville’s homeless shelter says she’s seeing more and more people staying at the center with some form of mental illness.

Since New Directions Warming and Cooling Center opened in February 2011, Vanessa Tyus says about 60 percent of the 875 individuals served are in that category. Of those staying there right now, that number’s at about 30 percent.

Tyus says the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center, which officially shut its doors a year ago this month, plays a factor in those numbers.

“It does make a significant difference also with our clientele. Some of them don’t have insurance, so they’re not able to be treated,” says Tyus. “Being homeless is already a stressful factor anyway, and then that throws in even more with the depression and anxiety.”

If New Directions can’t provide the help someone needs, Tyus says officials there will try to network with other agencies.

“We’ve sometimes been able to use Capital Community Healthcare over in the Springfield area or even taking them to the Salvation Army, where they have the homeless clinic that they provide over there also,” she says.

Tyus adds law enforcement is doing what’s necessary to deal with the increase of mentally-challenged individuals in the community after the JDC closed. She says she attended the most recent Mental Health Task Force meeting at the Jacksonville Police Department in January.

The task force offers training for local police officers, held by multiple mental health organizations in Central Illinois several times a year.

“They’re helping in getting training on the crisis intervention within mental health issues,” she says.

To volunteer at New Directions, call 473-0434.

New Directions is open 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week. Those that wish to stay there must first check in at the Jacksonville Police Station for a background check.