Faye Turney, Salvation Army Social Services Director
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
The closure of Southwestern State mental health hospital in Thomasville has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help at Albany homeless shelters.
The Salvation Army and the Albany Rescue Mission say they're not equipped to deal with patients suffering from severe mental disorders. But they've seen a steady increase since December. A flood of people with nowhere to go will fill the empty bunks in the city's shelters tonight.
"Albany doesn't have a lot of resources that are not tapped out," said Faye Turney, Salvation Army Social Services Director.
But more of the people seeking refuge struggle with schizophrenia, manic depression, or other illnesses. "When you look at the future, I can't tell you where this is gonna end up, because it doesn't look good," said Brother Larry Hample, Albany Rescue Mission.
Shelters have reported a flood of mentally ill individuals after the Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville closed December 31st. "We have a resource center next door that helps from 8-12, but we're not equipped to handle mental health patients," said Turney. "We're probably receiving 4-5 new clients a week that are mental health," said Turner.
But relief organizations don't have separate facilities for the mentally ill. "It doesn't matter who they are, but we do teach them the word of God and show them that God loves them in spite of the problems they're having," said Hample.
Some have to be turned away because they're too dangerous to house. "The other week, one went berserk out there and ended up lying under one of the picnic tables and they (police) had to pull him out of there," said Hample. "Some of them are having seizures, and we see an increase in this too."
But empathy for the less fortunate remains. "People need to be aware just because you see somebody homeless on the street, that they don't necessarily want to be there," said Turney. And efforts to help still forge ahead.
Rescue Mission leaders say nearly half the people in their shelter are on medication and undergoing mental health treatment. The Salvation Army is hoping to partner with nearby organizations to meet the need.