Lodi News-Sentinel

Access center creates resource opportunit­ies


January was a busy month at the Inner City Action Lodi Access Center. During this month 1,218 breakfasts, 1,328 lunches and 621 dinners were served. 1,567 showers were provided. There was an average of 71 day clients and 43 people staying the night. Offering a place for the unsheltere­d to be during the day is resulting in many positive outcomes.

This month’s update on the Lodi Access Center (LAC) focuses on the improvemen­t of services that are available in San Joaquin County but were not able to be fully utilized until the access center opened.

One major improvemen­t is the relationsh­ip with San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services (BHS). Previously, it was very challengin­g for BHS counselors and social workers to connect with their clients when they were homeless and living on the streets. Now, BHS staff can make appointmen­ts at the LAC and evaluation­s can be held in one of the offices. As a result, more clients are keeping appointmen­ts, attaining services, and receiving treatment.

Since opening last July, over 25 individual­s have either connected or reconnecte­d with BHS. Two such success stories in the past month include, two gentlemen, both with major mental illness, came into the LAC for day and night services. It was a challenge to accommodat­e their behaviors, but with significan­t patience from the staff and others staying at the LAC, the men settled into routines.

Contact was made for BHS to evaluate and arrange treatment. This process was not easy, as BHS referrals involve many steps, and appointmen­ts are often not immediatel­y available. BHS outreach teams hadn’t been able to find these individual­s for their appointmen­ts in the past. However, since these men were staying at the LAC during the day, their case managers could find them easily and begin follow-up which ensured continuity of services. After several weeks of working with BHS, both men are now receiving the care needed and transition­ed to appropriat­e living environmen­ts.

This is just the beginning, with the improved referral system with BHS and the LAC as a haven for individual­s with Behavioral Health challenges, we will continue to see positive changes.

Another challenge faced by unsheltere­d individual­s is resolving minor legal obstacles that prevent them from moving toward more productive and independen­t lives. The LAC has partnered with the City of Lodi to create a “Lodi Homeless Court” that allows unsheltere­d individual­s to address unresolved misdemeano­rs; these misdemeano­rs include citations for unlicensed and/or unleashed dogs, bikes not placed in bike racks, camping on city property. Homeless individual­s don’t have the funds to pay the fines for these tickets and often fearful to go to court and possibly serve jail time. Through Homeless Court, individual­s can do community service to work off their fines. This process opens the door to clearing their records so they can pass background checks when applying for housing and employment. This significan­t barrier to move off the streets is now being addressed.

Several successful cases have been adjudicate­d through Homeless Court, changing their lives, and giving them hope for the future. One gentleman recently said, “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my back”. He is now working on housing applicatio­ns and participat­ing at LAC with a new outlook.

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