Agency News | Needs of Houston's homeless with mental illness intensified due to pandemic
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Needs of Houston's homeless with mental illness intensified due to pandemic Bookmark

The COVID-19 disaster is having a detrimental impact on the ability of homeless individuals with mental illness to find a safe place to shelter following stabilization and discharge from inpatient crisis psychiatric treatment.


Representative Garnet Coleman proposed utilizing an existing state Healthy Community Collaborations grant to enable three local organizations to provide transition shelter and supporting services for homeless people who have mental illness. The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center and Open Door Mission will join forces to open a 24-hour facility with 28 beds.

"The pandemic has highlighted why many public health programs are needed including transitional housing," said Representative Coleman. "However, when we do beat this we cannot forget that these public health programs are still vital to normal everyday life even if they are not getting the attention they deserve."

Trained staff members from The Harris Center will provide services in a supportive environment with biological, psychological, and social interventions targeted at the individual's current crisis while facilitating community reintegration. During the resident's stay, individual and group skills training will be provided based on the needs of the individual and the goals of their individual crisis plans.  


"This collaboration opportunity is immediately available because of the foresight, leadership and advocacy of Rep. Garnet Coleman," said Wayne Young, CEO of The Harris Center. "His support secured Healthy Community Collaborative grant funds for Harris County which are being focused on this pressing need in our community."


Open Door Mission will provide the shelter beds, food, and other services required to safely house participants during their time in the program.


"This partnership is unique to Houston and it is designed to keep the homeless behavioral health population in Houston safe and protected in an insecure time," said CEO of Open Door Mission Tommy Thompson. "Thanks to Representative Coleman's initiative and support, the Mission is now able to bring to fruition a yearlong effort involving the three organizations. We will be able to concentrate our combined resources to provide a safe environment for those who need it most."


UTHealth HCPC patients experiencing homelessness will be linked to the UTHealth Homeless Outpatient Mental Health Expansion Services Program, funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Trauma-informed, integrated behavioral health services will assist in the post-discharge transition of patients to Open Door Mission to improve patient outcomes. SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery case management, linkage to supported employment, and housing assessments and navigation through HUD's Coordinated Access will all combine to improve long-term patient success. 


"This innovative and collaborative project will provide a safe housing option to some of our most vulnerable patients at a critical time when these services are in very short supply," said Steve Glazier, COO of the UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center.    


This partnership will provide appropriate supervision and assistance in a non-stressful environment, help the individual maintain residence in the community and prevent unnecessary re-hospitalization.


Garnet F. Coleman has served the people of District 147 in the Texas House of Representatives continuously since 1991. Throughout his years of service, Representative Coleman has earned a reputation as a criminal Justice leader in the areas of health care, economic development and education. He is currently the Senior ranking member of the Public Health Committee as well as the Chairman of the County Affairs Committee.

The Harris Center is the state-designated Local Mental Health Authority and Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) Authority serving Harris County, Texas. As the largest behavioral and developmental disability care center in Texas, The Harris Center provided care to over 79,000 people in fiscal year 2019. Learn more at

Open Door Mission is dedicated to transforming the lives of the most severely addicted, destitute, homeless and disabled men in our community. Visit Open Door Mission online at


Established in 1972 by The University of Texas System Board of Regents, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is Houston's Health University and Texas' resource for health care education, innovation, scientific discovery and excellence in patient care.


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