Thursday, October 11, 2007

Forest fires and untreated mental illness

Colorado is a dangerous place to be homeless. In Colorado Springs temperatures hover in the low 20s in December and January.

The freezing temperatures drive many chronically homeless to build fires rather than seek shelters.

Recently in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs a fire tore through area forests destroying 30 acres and causing $30,000 worth of damage. The fire was believed to be started by a homeless camp.

Dr. Bob Holmes an advocate for the homeless says the fire is a by-product of a bigger problem.

“The bigger problem is an issue that plagues many of the nearly 2,000 homeless people living in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, mental illness. We have some mental health issues that are pretty rampant with the chronic homeless. That's why they are chronically homeless. There's not enough treatment available for them."

Homelessness, victimization, suicide, and now forest fires – some of the many consequences of failing to treat severe mental illness.

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