We’re living at a time in which being homeless, being on drugs, or being mentally ill are crimes that can send you to prison. This film presents three promising and much less expensive alternatives that can actually improve people’s lives while at the same time save taxpayers’ dollars: Utah’s Housing First program, LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) in Seattle, and San Antonio’s 40-hour CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) for law enforcement officers.
In 2014, one hundred cities in the United States banned sitting down or lying down in public places. The big question is: where are homeless people supposed to go? Since when is not having a home a crime?
Chronically homeless individuals are adults who have been living on the streets for a year or more or a total of four times in three years. Many of them also suffer from some type of mental illness. The way in which homeless people are treated in most of the United States is inhumane and expensive. Calculations show that it costs taxpayers about $20,000 per year per homeless person in cities where the only solution is to slap them with a prison sentence. Housing programs are the best way to help solve homelessness. Once a person gets a roof over his or her head, a heavy burden is lifted off his or her shoulder and they can then focus on getting themselves clean and in shape to move on with life.
In 2012 in Washington State, 10, 672 persons were arrested on drug charges. Most of these people were repeat offenders that were getting arrested over and over again every few months and in some cases with just days in between. Clearly, spending a few nights in jail was not the solution.
Each year about nine billion dollars are spent locking up mentally ill people. In 2012 about 356, 368 severely mentally ill persons were imprisoned. Jails have now become the number one mental health facilities across the country as the mentally ill continue to be criminalized without receiving any treatment. It can take an officer between 8 to 14 hours of waiting in an emergency room after arresting a mentally ill patient. Now this program allows the person to be dropped off at the restoration center directly where qualified staff knows exactly what to do.
Officers receive specialized training that helps them identify and talk to the mentally ill patient in crisis in order to get them the help they need. Billions of dollars are being saved every year by offering solutions other than handcuffs and jail time.