City Council agreed Wednesday to spend $4.3 million to outfit a warehouse at Star of Hope Mission and $353,000 a year to operate it as a place to take drunks instead of jail.
City officials expect the 84-bed facility to open later this year and justified the expense on the hope that it will save money by diverting thousands of people from expensive and time-consuming jail bookings.
Police officers who detain people whose only crime is being drunk in public will have the option of dropping them off at the so-called sobering center for at least a four-hour stay without an arrest on their record. Because the drop-offs are much quicker than jail bookings, police would return to patrol sooner.
The Mayor’s press release has the key numbers plus some more details:
The city’s annual cost to lease, maintain and staff the new center is estimated to be $1.5 million, compared to the $4-6 million currently being spent to process public intoxication cases at the city jail.
The Houston Center for Sobriety will be an alternative to jail for people detained for public intoxication, allowing the opportunity to regain sobriety in a safe, medically-monitored environment. The Houston Police Department (HPD), Houston Department of Health and Human Services and Houston Fire Department (HFD) will provide city services at the site. In addition, the building will also house the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Unit, bringing together staff dispersed throughout the city into one location.
A 501(c)3 foundation will also be created to aid in future fundraising for operations and possible future expansion.
See here for some background. This should pay for itself in a couple of years, and it moves the city a step closer to exiting the jail business. Good work all around.