CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Drug Treatment Court has received a $1.8 million grant to help eliminate housing barriers for drug offenders who struggle to find stable housing because of their felony record and bad credit.
The Linn court may be the first one in Iowa to receive this federal five-year recovery-based housing grant, said Rob Metzger, treatment services manager with the 6th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services. About 85 percent to 90 percent of recovering drug offenders have housing issues because of criminal record or poor credit.
6th Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde, who presides over the drug court, said stable housing helps the offenders be more successful because they don’t have to worry about where they are going to sleep. They have so many other challenges to handle with — staying sober, gaining employment and working to rebuild relationships with family and friends — so housing can now be one less problem, she said.
Many times, these offenders are limited on where they can live because landlords won’t rent to them, but the grant provides a housing specialist through Resources for Human Development, a nonprofit that can find affordable housing and foster landlords to work with the court, to join the drug court team.
The grant also can provide financial help for some, such as with rental deposits and first- or last-month rents, Metzger said.
Hoover-Grinde said she will never forget a court graduate for being so proud that he could buy a house. He lost his housing because of his drug addiction and never thought he would be able to purchase a house.
“That’s what so great to see,” Hoover-Grinde said.
The other part of this grant also will provide detox beds at Prelude Behavioral Services in Iowa City for drug court participants. In the past, an intoxicated offender in the program would be sent to jail for the night to sober up.
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Hoover-Grinde said spending the night in jail wasn’t ideal for these offenders because changing their behavior and keeping them out of jail is the point of the program. They ended up in the program because their substance abuse led to criminal activity. If they relapse, it’s a better situation to have them in a treatment center rather than in jail, she said.
It’s not unusual for the offender to relapse while in the program, but it may not involve them committing a new offense, only that they need a detox bed to sober up, she said. When this happens, the drug court team evaluates the situation and places sanctions or provides additional resources to the offender.
Metzger said the grant allows 40 detox beds a year at Prelude, which is probably more than enough for this drug court.
The drug court team can provide transportation for the offender to Prelude if needed, but many times family or friends can take care of it, Metzger said.
The housing specialist will start working with offenders in the next two weeks.
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