Coalition plans mental health, homelessness symposium

·3 min read

Sep. 23—While nonprofits in the Golden Isles number close to 400, many of which are devoted to helping the needy, it is not hard for the homeless to fall through the cracks.

Honey Sparre says the mission of the Southeast Regional Community Collaborative is to mend those cracks.

As chairwoman of the Glynn County branch of the RCC, Sparre challenged those involved in various parts of the health care, mental health and charity sectors who were present at a meeting on homelessness Tuesday to bring together as many people as possible for a mental health symposium.

She has seen firsthand the issues homeless people deal with and how hard it can be for them to get the help they need even when it's available.

Most homeless people in Brunswick suffer from a convergence of issues. Some have simply hit a rough patch and need a hand, but many become chronically homeless because they lack access or the ability to take advantage of mental health care, education and job training opportunities and housing they can afford, she told The News in a past interview.

Some face mental health challenges so severe they're effectively incapable of getting help on their own.

"Most of them are self-medicating because it's so hard for them to get in and get these mental health services and stay on a regimen," Sparre said. "... If they're actively delusional or in psychosis, how do you get them to show up at (at Gateway Behavioral Health Services at) 7:30 and sit there, make a phone call, fill out the paperwork. ... That's been an ongoing issue."

Gateway also operates a crisis unit, but not every case is a crisis or recognizable as such, but the person still needs help to get out of a homeless situation, she said.

One of the common cracks in Glynn County is transportation. Someone may have to travel a good way to get food and may not be able to get back to the treatment center often enough to remain enrolled as an inpatient.

That can be particularly frustrating, especially when someone offering free meals to the homeless may be closer but fails to communicate with other charities and nonprofits, she said.

Sparre has worked to help the homeless in the area for 20 years. She's worked at FaithWorks, which operates a few services, including The Well, a homeless day shelter on Gloucester Street in Brunswick, and Coastal Community Health Services, which provides low- to no-cost medical services to those living in poverty.

She knows many in the field and asked everyone at the meeting to contact everyone they know in the mental health field or involved in helping homeless people and urge them to commit to a gathering.

Anyone interested in being part of the symposium can contact Sparre at hunniefair@gmail.com.

Sparre said she's tired of "meetings to discuss meetings" and wants some kind of action plan to come out of the symposium.

No date has been set.

The city and county will hold an all-day joint summit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5 at the College of Coastal Georgia's Southeast Georgia Conference Center to discuss the homelessness issue.