Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Institutional discharge into homelessness

Readers forum: Adding to CLOUT's challenge
Louisville Courier-Journal, March 26, 2007, pg. A6.

We applaud the March 12 Community Challenge by Bishop Walter A. Jones Jr. of CLOUT. The Coalition for the Homeless has worked with CLOUT on many issues, such as affordable housing and the minimum wage, that face people living in poverty and despair in our community.Jones focused on drug and alcohol addiction leading to a revolving door of institutionalization and incarceration. A major issue not mentioned was institutional discharge into homelessness.

Without appropriate intervention before or after institutionalization, homelessness continues to grow.

Metro Louisville and Kentucky, along with many other states and municipalities, have developed 10-year plans to end homelessness. The plan's strategy calls for collaborating with all aspects of the community including the faith community to end homelessness, but institutions continue to be a feeder system into our streets and shelters.

Together with Family and Children First and the Adanta Behavioral Health Services of Somerset, we have developed a coordinated, comprehensive program to ensure that people who are released from the Kentucky Department of Corrections, mental health facilities and the foster care system are provided services to keep them from becoming homeless....

This small urban/rural pilot project, funded by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Families, proves that with some intervention, people do not have to become homeless. In the first 18 months, both sites served over 50 individuals, and only one person returned to corrections.

Kentucky's recidivism rate is 57 percent. So this program, costing $2,500 per client, saved the state approximately $850,000 per year because people do not return to prisons and jails. These 50 fragile men and women who were served have gone back to their hometowns and are now leading productive lives.

The expansion of Drug Court to intervene at the beginning of the corrections process is in the best interest of the community. Let us implement other proven interventions at other points in the system.

Each church, synagogue and mosque is needed to mentor, support and encourage people who have fallen upon hard times. It is our hope that this project, along with more affordable housing opportunities, can be replicated in every corner of the state to keep people who are suffering from substance abuse, mental illness, childhood abandonment and institutionalization from becoming part of the homeless population by being released, all alone, to the streets.

Executive director
Coalition for the Homeless

Executive director
Family and Children First
Louisville 40203


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