Salt Lake City leaders opened a new community connections center today, across the street from The Road Home shelter.
The new center will work with the police department to help those who are homeless, addicted to drugs or who struggle with mental health problems. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown says it will give officers more options when dealing with drug offenders.
“If we found somebody that was in possession of narcotics, or needed some sort of help, really our only tool on our belt was incarceration" he says. "And I’m telling you, incarceration is probably the least effective and the most expensive type of therapy or help we can provide for some of these folks.”
Brown says the current system had led many of Salt Lake City’s homeless to get stuck in a cycle of incarceration.
“Arrest, release, repeat, arrest,” says Stan Penfold, Vice Chair of the Salt Lake City Council. He says the new community connections program will allow police to pair people up with a social worker.
“So rather than arresting someone they could come here and look for services" he says, "so a social worker would do an assessment for them to link them up to other resources in the community.”
These resources include assistance with transportation, family reunification, housing, employment and behavioral health.
Police Chief Brown hopes the program will improve Pioneer Park and the Rio Grande neighborhood.
“Now I really know we can take people by the hand and connect them with a person who can provide opportunities and doors to recovery” he says.
The center has six case workers and Mayor Jackie Biskupski is already interested in expanding the program outside of the Rio Grande area.