In advance of Restorative Court’s three-year anniversary celebration, outreach specialist Mureen Brown produced an eight-minute video to depict how the program has touched the lives of 414 homeless people — placing 281 of them in programs, reunifying 90 with their families, and housing 47. In three years, 188 individuals have graduated from the program, meaning they remained citation-free for six months. Watch the video below.
Restorative Court offers an alternative to jail for individuals — often with substance abuse and mental health problems — who frequently pass through the revolving doors of the emergency room, County Jail, and court. They are often arrested and cited for public nuisance offenses, such as urinating in public or carrying an open container. On average, it takes about 14 months for a client to graduate because of relapses, Brown said, which are common with people who struggle from alcohol abuse.
“If they fall, we provide a soft landing,” said Officer Keld Hove, who, along with Officer Craig Burleigh, manages the program. Some clients will never get sober, Brown added, but their number of citations may drop from one per day to one or two a month.
The two officers, working alongside outreach specialists, go to great lengths to assist their clients. “They have the same dreams as everybody else,” Hove said, adding the group may help a 22-year-old urban travel one day and a longtime Santa Barbara transient the next. But all of them, Hove went on, want to live meaningful lives and build relationships. Very few of his clients grew up here, Hove said, and finding housing is the biggest obstacle. At times, they travel across the state to get people into a specific program.
Brown explained the Santa Barbara program not only meets the needs of the homeless, but it’s also financially responsible, explaining the cost of jail — $86 a day — is much more than placing someone in a supportive home — $28 a day. “We can’t arrest our way out of this,” Hove said. “It doesn’t work with this population.”
An army of resource providers contributes to the effort, including Alcohol Drug Mental Health Services (ADMHS) and other county departments, Casa Esperanza, Common Ground, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Legal Aid Foundation, S.B. Community Housing Corporation, and Salvation Army Hospitality House. “It’s like a huge family,” Hove said.