By Jennifer Brown
They found Robert Bischoff by sharing his photo with a Sinclair gas station clerk who often sold him cigarettes.
They met Alexander Jacob after sending his mom a letter, even though he almost didn’t respond because he figured it was “trash mail.”
The two men and more than 250 more people — all homeless and high-frequency users of jail, detox and emergency departments at taxpayer expense — have been tracked down by Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Mental Health Center of Denver outreach workers and given apartments through Denver’s social-impact bond program. About two years into the five-year program, researchers have noted a dramatic drop in jail days.
It’s part of the “housing first” model, meaning the first step is providing housing in the hopes that substance-abuse and mental-health treatment will follow.
Among those selected through a Washington, D.C.-based research institute that analyzed jail and hospital data, 60 now live at the Mental Health Center of Denver’s Sanderson Apartments, where natural light floods the hallways and outdoor gardens offer quiet space. Nearly all have substance abuse and mental health struggles. About 10 residents have drug addictions deemed “problematic” by housing and residential services director JoAnn Toney, but that’s expected with residents beginning “their recovery process with the housing piece,” she said.