Program Launched To Aid Mentally Ill Homeless

San Diego County mental health officials launched an education campaign Monday morning aimed at decreasing the stigma of mental illness and homelessness in San Diego.

The "Housing Matters" campaign will include TV, radio and print ads to increase understanding and public awareness. In addition, there are plans to add 10 support housing projects with 180 units to help those on the streets.

Officials say mentally ill homeless citizens are only recognized when crimes are committed. In the past, the crimes have been violent, including the 2007 stabbing of Caroline and Donald Stewart in Hillcrest and the 2009 stabbing death of Katherine Parker in Oceanside. The suspects in the cases, Jared Jacobson and Eric Andreasen, were both believed to have suffered from mental illness.

The county wants to erase stereotypes of the mentally ill homeless population. With 8,500 homeless people in San Diego -- 25 percent of them with a mental disorder -- county officials said violent crimes are rare.

Anthony Barbosa, 22, has been homeless for more than a year and suffers from manic depression. He said people categorize the homeless without even asking that person his or her story.

"You don't know what happened to them to put them in that position. They need help; that's the bottom line. They're human beings with feelings and emotions." Barbosa said.

The Housing Matters campaign will last until 2015.

"This program will help put people on the road to recovery and above all, give them hope," said Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency.