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Pilot Program Has Success Helping Chronic Homeless

  

A pilot program to help the long-term homeless in West Sacramento and Yolo County will end next week.

Terry Hughes is 59. He says he has spent half of his adult life in prison and part of the last four living along the river. He says having a one-year-old son inspired him to turn his life around. In the past three months, Hughes has received family and substance abuse counseling and now has an income in the form of a disability check.  

"This program really let me benefit. It's given me all the proper tools and all the proper people to help me get and do what I'm doing right now."

In November of last year, Yolo County and the City of West Sacramento spent $150,000 on a pilot project called "Bridge to Housing." The County and City leased every room at the Old Town Inn on West Capitol Mall and then moved 65 chronically homeless people and 40 animals into the hotel.

0223 BM Old Town Inn

Each person was given a case worker to help them solve the problems that led to their homelessness.

County Supervisor Oscar Villegas says 28 of the 65 people will have some form of housing when they leave next week.

"Some folks are gonna get there. Other folks are gonna get really close, but maybe not quite. So, what we are hoping is that this program provided them the resources, the knowledge, the support that they're gonna need to actually get to that better place. We knew with our eyes wide open going into this pilot that that may not happen for everybody."

Villegas says the average time on the street for a chronically homeless person is four-and-a-half years.

Karen Larsen is the Mental Health Director for Yolo County. In her words, the success rate of this program is "kind of a miracle" but could be better.  

"Active substance abuse is a huge issue. Because we used the housing-first model, we  didn't make people be clean and sober before they got here and some of them have not obtained sobriety since being here and that's really impeded their progress."

Larsen and others involved in the program will examine the successes and failures of the pilot before beginning any other campaign to help the homeless. Other cities have already inquired about duplicating the program.

The County will continue an "adopt-the-homeless" program that takes donations of household items and gives them to the people who found housing through the "Bridge to Housing" program.