The Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) to require emergency shelters for the homeless to admit persons with a mental illness so long as the person poses no risk to others.
“Having a mental illness should in no way preclude someone from being given shelter in a time of need,” Allen said. “Those who are homeless and suffering from mental illness face enough challenges already without enduring unfair discrimination and being left in the cold.”
The bill, S-1888, requires that no person can be refused admittance to an emergency shelter for the homeless because they are believed to have a mental illness unless there is a reasonable basis to believe that the person poses a danger to themselves or others.
According to a study by the Corporation of Supportive Housing, nearly 90 percent of the state’s chronically homeless suffer from a mental illness. The bill was introduced after media accounts detailed the inability of those with a mental illness to find a shelter that would take them in.
“Preventing those with a mental illness from accessing homeless shelters is only exacerbating the problem,” Allen concluded. “Providing a safe, warm place to sleep is at least a start in getting these residents the help they need.” [TLS]