Longview womens’ crisis shelter director discusses challenge of helping mentally ill

Published: Aug. 13, 2022 at 3:45 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - The debate about what can be done to recognize and treat mental illness across the country and East Texas continues to be one without an answer.

But the issue has come to the forefront at a Longview women’s shelter.

As construction goes on at the House of Hope women’s shelter to make room to care for more women in need, inside the shelter that helps women in crisis, is itself facing a crisis.

“Right now I have 4 critically mentally ill women in my shelter,” says shelter director Helen Johnson.

For years Johnson has advocated for new programs or assistance to help treat the mentally ill on Longview streets, many of them who end up in her shelter. One 9 months pregnant.

“She had no other I-D , she didn’t know what her first name was. A policeman said she’s been on the streets of Longview since March. No ones looking for her, no one knows who she is or where she came from,” Helen says.

Unequipped and untrained to deal with mental illness,

she’s trying to find any agency or social service that will help with no luck.

“I just begged, come help me. This city has no provision for these ladies to go somewhere and be safe,” she says.

Shelter residents say it’s come to a point where they fear the women may hurt themselves or other residents.

“It’s hard for us. We can’t, there’s no way. We look at them and they’re broken, and we realize how broken we are,” said one shelter resident.

“We have to watch them every minute. This morning one of them began to throw silverware at everybody,” Johnson says.

She simply wants someone, somewhere, to listen.

“These are human beings and we don’t take care of them. And if you can’t get the federal laws changed, my goodness lets get the state of Texas laws changed. This is crazy,” says Helen.

Johnson hopes to make some of the new rooms available to women with mental issues, so they can be housed privately from the main population.

Community Healthcorps did visit and consulted with Johnson.

Copyright 2022 KLTV. All rights reserved.