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Battling Homelessness, Mental Illness
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People with mental illness make up at least twelve percent of Connecticut's homeless population. Some services for them are caught in the crosshairs of a very tight state budget.

Kathryn Parker has a part-time job in Bridgeport, but she doesn't have a place to live.

"I live out of my car. I have my clothes there. Just like you go to your closet, i go to the trunk of my car, and decide what I'm going to wear today."

It wasn't always this way. She earned her masters degree and once worked a stable job, while struggling with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Then her husband got cancer. She left work to care for him before he died.

"It just, it took what was left in me."

For three years, she couldn't get out of bed, let alone work. She didn't have a place of her own, and relations with her family were strained.

"I have been locked out of the house, and thrown out of the house. And that has led me to stay in the shelter, or stay in my car, or go to friends. This is the reality of it."

About seven months ago, she got help at a nonprofit that serves people with psychiatric illnesses. She's diligent about her medication, but it's still tough.

"I struggle more with my mental illness because I'm homeless. You know, I need to pull a way out of me to get up every morning. To get through each day. And at the end of the day, when it's time to kick off your shoes and relax, I have to wonder and worry about, where are am I going to go?"

There's not enough housing for people like Parker. Connecticut has about 4,000 units of supportive housing, which pairs a place to live with services for residents, but waiting lists can drag on for months. 

Mental health advocates, including Parker, gathered at the Capitol to push for more funding for housing, but in this fiscal crisis, it's a tough sell. Governor Rell has cancelled plans to spend $3.3 million for 150 new units of supportive housing. The Democrats' budget bill restores funding for construction that already started, but new projects remain suspended.