Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A New Direction

This past month I've been in a couple of meetings with representatives of the City of Mesa. One was at the TLC corporate offices, the other at the City Courthouse on First Avenue. And I left both meetings feeling positive about the direction Mesa is taking with the homeless, particularly with homeless addicts and alcoholics. And that hasn't always been the case when I left meetings with the city. But things change sometimes when people realize that what they've been doing hasn't been working.

The meetings were initiated by a member of the City's homeless outreach team. Their goal is to figure out a different way to deal with the homeless. It seems that the court system spends some $800,000 a year dealing with homeless addicts and alcoholics and the mentally ill.

Their plan is to set up a program where they can keep the homeless from winding up in the court system at all. One of the representatives explained that the same 200 people keep cycling through the system over and over for petty crimes like trespassing, disorderly conduct, and failure to appear. He said the failure to appear rate is something like 60 to 70% because most of them don't fear getting arrested or going to jail. In fact, many of them welcome it because it's a chance for them to eat a few meals, get some rest, and take a shower.

The plan, as I understand it, is to get anyone involved who might provide services to the homeless. Aside from TLC, that would involve the Veterans Administration, detox centers, AHCCCS, and any other organization that might be able to help the homeless transition back into the community. The ultimate goal would be for police officers on the street to have referral sources that could provide help to the homeless without having to arrest them or take them to jail. And, of course if a person refuses help then the alternative would be to arrest and incarcerate them.

I thought it was interesting that the Courthouse administrator said that they're beginning to realize that they can't arrest their way out of the homeless situation. That the real solution is to try to provide answers and services to help people change their lives - before they enter the justice system.

And since TLC has been helping people rebuild their lives for over 25 years this is a project that we can happily get involved.

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