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.