Most homeless individuals in Travis County, Texas are struggling with serious mental health issues. In the past year, Community Care has provided treatment to over 650 people in the area, with the main diagnoses being drug use disorders, mental health disorders, skin conditions, and hypertension. The term “homeless” refers to people who are at risk of becoming homeless or receiving some type of housing service. In Austin and greater Travis County, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country, with an average of 151 new residents each day, these individuals face even more barriers.
A study conducted in Austin found that homeless men represented 4 percent of all arrests for violent crimes and less than 10 percent of arrests for all violent and property crimes. People with disabilities are much less likely to be employed and yet suffer discrimination in the workplace, making it more difficult to keep a job long enough to qualify for federal disability benefits. This can make it difficult to remain in stable housing from the start. Medical professionals from Dell Medical Center and Community Care are doing what they can to provide health care to an increasing number of homeless people in Austin.
African Americans in Texas are disproportionately affected by homelessness, a disturbing trend related to the over-incarceration of people of color in Texas. In fact, black people represent only 12.7 percent of the Texas population but 38.2 percent of the homeless population - three times more than in the Texas population. Mental illness can protect a person from becoming homeless because people with chronic psychiatric disorders are eligible to receive federal income from disability, Medicaid, and housing services. A study published in the presentation revealed that homeless people fare worse overall due to various health outcomes. Homeless people are much more likely to have disabilities than people who are housed, which complicates necessary activities such as going to the doctor or going around the city, and makes finding a job to get out of homelessness much more difficult. Front Steps, an Austin-based organization that advocates for ending homelessness, divides the population they serve into those who are literally homeless and those who are not literally homeless.