Arapahoe County to build homes for unhoused 18th District justice system clients

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Nov. 30, 2022

(Arapahoe County, Colo.) Arapahoe County plans to spend $3 million of American Rescue Plan Act money to build 80-100 permanent housing units for justice rehabilitation program clients in partnership with Brothers Redevelopment.

The goal is to provide safe and affordable community-based housing with harm reduction and trauma-informed care models to provide shelter and services for unhoused individuals.

Permanent supportive housing is nationally recognized as a homelessness solution because it combines housing and supportive services for stability and independence not available to individuals living on the streets.

The project will be used for unhoused clients of the 18th Judicial District problem-solving courts (wellness, recovery and veteran treatment courts), the Arapahoe County Pretrial Mental Health program, diversion clients of the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Mental Health Program, Project SAFER, Veterans Treatment Court, jail re-entry, and defendants being restored to competency.

According to Kathy Smith, Community Resource director for Arapahoe County Government, 21% of jail releases were homeless when they were initially booked this year. The Arapahoe County Criminal Justice Planning Office estimates 10% of the population supervised by pretrial release is homeless, and 24% of the 18th Judicial District's problem-solving courts’ clients are homeless.

Smith noted that many individuals released from jail are required to comply with conditions of probation, and many are struggling with mental health or substance use disorder. Because of this, the individuals find the lack of affordable housing a significant barrier to recovery and rehabilitation, causing high recidivism rates amongst the unhoused, Smith said.

“Having stable housing available to this population will help them to adhere to their treatment, comply with justice-system supervision conditions, and get back on their feet to live crime free, drug free, and happy lives,” Smith said.

In a four-year return to jail study, the Criminal Justice Planning Office found individuals released from jail with no housing return to jail 46% more often on new charges than those released who have a place to stay.

Additionally, homeless inmates stay 44% longer in jail than non-homeless.

“Our Justice Coordinating Committee has been keenly interested in developing supportive housing for justice-involved individuals for years,” said Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Jackson. “We know it works and we’re elated that we can commit a portion of our ARPA funding to help address this growing problem that was exasperated by COVID.”

The Board of County Commissioners allocated $3 million of the county’s $127 million American Rescue Plan Act funding to the program. No location has been identified.

Brothers Redevelopment is a nonprofit that provides housing and related services to low-income, elderly and disabled residents across the state. The organization worked with Arapahoe County on many programs, including the Community Development Block Grant funding program that provides home modifications and housing counseling to older adults and disabled residents.

“We look forward to expanding our work with Arapahoe County to serve those who have gone through the justice system and face housing uncertainty along with health challenges,” said Jeff Martinez, president of Brothers Redevelopment.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

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