Pulaski County judge reveals plan to aid homeless

The goal of the housing program is to help people find and keep housing.

By Emma Pettit
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Pulaski County is considering a housing program that would target the chronically homeless, many of whom are mentally and physically disabled, to ease the strain on local resources.

County Judge Barry Hyde introduced this potential "supportive housing program" during a speech he gave last week.

Supportive housing is assistance that not only secures a place for tenants to live, but also connects those tenants with the services they need to retain housing.

Mentorship, substance abuse treatment, skill building and job training are all possible services.

The type of program Pulaski County is considering would target people who have long histories of homelessness, Hyde said in his speech.

That type of program is most often referred to as "permanent supportive housing." It's geared toward people who have some form of mental illness, substance abuse disorder or chronic medical problem that makes maintaining a residence more difficult.

These people are frequently arrested or hospitalized, which costs the local government money. But data show that living in supportive housing reduces those rates by stunning percentages, Hyde said.

These types of programs, with the right partners, "can result in direct public savings and improve public safety," the county judge said. Pulaski County will be "evaluating the feasibility" of such a program going forward, he said.

This project is in its infancy, said Justin Blagg, director of Quorum Court services.

The idea, in part, stemmed from work the county has done to set up a crisis stabilization center. When operational, the center will treat people who are in the middle of mental health crises who also encounter trained law enforcement officers and might otherwise end up in the county jail.

During this process, the county identified people who are arrested frequently and who screened as positive for mental illness when evaluated at the Pulaski County jail.

Even with the crisis center, Blagg said, "the fear is, or the possibility is, that these people just start cycling through." Read more.

Rainwater, Hold & Sexton Injury Lawyers 800-434-4800

Guardian Pro RFID and AAC Risk Management Fund mitigate risks for Arkansas jails