Pilot program aims to help drug court participants with housing

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Andrea Anderson
September 17, 2015

ELKHORN—Drug court participants in housing binds could be eligible for a helping hand come October.

Qualified participants will be able to receive funding for housing starting Oct. 1, when the Walworth County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee kicks off a one-year pilot program.

For the next year, or until funding runs out, drug offenders battling addiction and working toward better lives can get up to $600 a month for rent. The program was approved Friday by the committee.

The pilot will provide funding for individuals for up to four months.

For example, a person who needs to move at the last minute but doesn't have enough money saved for a security deposit and first month rent could get help, Walworth County Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Aldred said.

“It is really for someone who doesn't have the ability to secure housing at that moment,” Aldred said Wednesday. “It's not a savings program.”

The coordinating committee has been trying to tackle the problem of housing for participants. Many have learned that living with friends or relatives doesn't work because of trust issues or relapse.

The county will use $30,000 left over from a 2008 donation to the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services.

Sal Dimiceli of the Time is Now donated the money for initiatives in reducing drunken-driving offenses, Aldred said, and has since given the county the OK to use the remainder for the new initiative.

Recipients of the funds must be drug court participants, be recommended for funding by a probation and parole agent, be rated by the state Department of Corrections as at risk for losing housing, and make less than 1.5 times the federal poverty rate.

There is no limit to the number of people who can receive funding at a time.

Priority will be given to drug court participants who require only a security deposit, to pregnant women and to IV heroin users.

Recipients must meet each month with the treatment court team to discuss how they are moving toward taking over the rent payments.

The program is for housing with a lease, meaning no hotels or motels.

Aldred and other committee members are searching for landlords willing to work with the county and drug court participants. Two landlords have approached committee members to offer their units, said Dan Necci, Walworth County district attorney.

Participants are required to pay at least $10 toward their rent. If rent is more than $600, the renter needs to make up the difference.

The county will writes the checks to the landlords.

Only drug court participants may live in the apartments.

The pilot does not allow children in the homes so drug court participants can focus on recovery, Aldred said. The rule might change, however. People voiced concern Friday about breaking apart a child and a parent when pregnant women are going to be allowed to receive funds.

Drug court has three, 16-week phases with six months of aftercare. Participants must attend individual and group counseling, submit to random drug tests and attend bi-weekly court appearances with Judge David Reddy.

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