PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. — In another attempt at criminal justice reform, Pima County is tackling homelessness through a permanent supportive housing program. The county is giving $2.5 million, over two years, to agencies willing to provide permanent housing for a minimum of 150 people. But it is also another way to help those with mental health issues and homelessness stay out of jail and recover in a more stable environment.
"There is a population in our jail who are non-violent offenders, who may have mental health or behavioral health issues. And really, the jail is not the best place for them," said Terrance Cheung, the director of Justice Reform Initiatives for Pima County.
The program is for a minimum of 150 people who need help especially housing. The criteria, "Somebody who's been in jail more than twice in one year, they should have a mental health or behavioral health issue, are considered low income and don't have stable housing," said Cheung.
And in the language of this program, unstable housing means anything from couch surfing to living on the streets. Cheung says stabilized housing is the first step in getting someone to become successful. After stable housing is implemented, wrap around service can be available to those trying to get back on their feet, such as job training and education.
"This is the first kind of county-funded program, that we know of in the state, where we're doing first, the 24/7 wrap-around services and then we're adding to that a really quality program evaluation so that we're able to determine are we having the successes that we want to have," said Cheung.
Similar programs have had success in other locations including Denver, Santa Clara County, California and Salt Lake City. These locations saw a 91-percent reduction in chronic homelessness after implementing a permanent supportive housing model more than a decade ago.
The deadline for non-profits to apply for this program is January 11. Agencies like service providers and non-profits, among others, can apply. Applications are available online at vendors.pima.gov.