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Housing Program Aims to Reduce Pima County Jail’s Homeless Population

Arizona Daily Star

By Emily Bregel

Pima County is seeking nonprofits to help launch the state’s first self-funded permanent supportive housing program, which aims to reduce the homeless population in jail.

The contract for the two-year pilot project will distribute up to $3 million over two years to agencies that will serve at least 150 people, targeting those who are homeless, have behavioral-health needs and have been incarcerated.

“We’re really looking at the individuals who are really hard to reach, who have not been successful being in society,” said Terrance Cheung, Pima County director of reform initiatives. “We’re already paying for them, through housing them in jail, through emergency room visits. What we’re doing (with this program) is providing the tools for these individuals to be successful.”

More than 500 homeless people were booked into the Pima County jail more than once in 2014, and the Pima County Behavioral Health Department found nearly three-quarters of them had a history of mental illness or had previously received behavioral-health treatment.

“In addition to making good economic sense, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating that this model is the most effective means of breaking the cycle of homelessness and addressing the factors that contribute to it,” County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said in a news release.

“By pairing housing with case management and supportive services, we believe most of these people will be able to lead more stable, more productive lives, and that’s good for the whole community.”

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