AUSTIN (KXAN) — Homelessness is visible in many corners in Austin, but mental illness on the streets is a silent cry.
Austin resident Lisa Hoelscher knows this from experience. She was homeless for three years.
“I’d never been homeless before, and the hardest part is your dealing with new issues, and you still have old trauma,” Hoelscher said. “I was manic, depressed, suicidal.”
One organization in Austin is dedicated to helping people like Hoelscher.
Integral Care provides direct support for those living on the streets. Some of its services for those experiencing mental illnesses include case management, counseling and living skills training. Last year, Integral Care served more than 2,900 people experiencing homelessness.
Outreach specialists at Integral Care visit homeless camps every day and build relationships and trust with those on the streets.
“When they’re engaging with folks, they’re gathering information on their needs, they’re learning a little bit more about who they are, and what resources they are needing,” said Ruth Ahearn, practice administrator.
Hoelscher said the conversations she had led to the first mental health help she had received in three years. Today, she has been with Integral Care for six years.
“When you are living on the street, so much of your time is focused on just getting basic needs met, that it’s hard to focus on some of those longer-term needs,” said Ahearn.
One of those long-term needs is housing — Integral Care’s largest initiative. It’s a program that Hoelscher credits for her stability in life.
“They encouraged me, and they were always on my side. I just have a better life now, this little life that I just enjoy,” said Hoelscher.
Homeless camps across the city will start being cleared out when phase 3 of the camping ban implementation starts on July 11, but Integral Care said its work will continue.