Transitional housing a possibility

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Journal Review on 6/26/2018 by Jim Johnson

There’s a significant need for transitional housing in Montgomery County for certain individuals in the criminal justice system. Montgomery Superior Court I Judge Heather Barajas and Chief Probation Officer Andria Geigle addressed county commissioners at the start of Monday’s meeting about the possibility of making such housing available here.

“One of the biggest problems we face, particularly in drug court, is that we have people who qualify for drug court who don’t have a place to live,” Barajas said. “And they can’t go home because either the people who are at home are still using or it’s just chaos. Part of what we’re doing in drug court is we’re trying to get them into a safer situation and we cannot allow them to go home.”

This month the West Central Regional Community Corrections Advisory Board gave WCRCC Director Dani Snider approval to explore transitional housing in the five counties (Parke, Montgomery, Fountain, Warren and Vermillion) that WCRCC serves.

Now, Barajas and Geigle are trying to get the ball rolling in Montgomery County, beginning with making sure the county’s commissioners are on board with the idea.

“It sounds like a good idea,” commission president Jim Fulwider said.

Barajas and Geigle made several things clear. First, they pointed it out the housing would not act as a homeless shelter and would be specifically for qualified individuals transitioning to healthy and sober environments.

“Sometimes they qualify for work release, but right now, for example, our work release program is completely full,” Barajas said. “We try to transition them through work release into drug court if possible, but that’s not always an option. Sometimes their criminal record is so hideous that they don’t qualify for work release. And so they don’t really have a place to go.”

Funding to purchase housing where individuals would be placed on a short-term basis could come from WCRCC. For ongoing costs, such as taxes, insurance and upkeep, Barajas said they would look at fee program for those staying there to cover those expenses.

The project is only in the beginning stages. Geigle said the next step would be looking into other legalities, such as insurance and the cost of purchasing property.

In other business, commissioners:

  •  Introduced an ordinance establishing a fund for a $190,924 grant awarded to the probation department from the Indiana Department of Corrections for the 2019 fiscal year.
  •  Introduced an ordinance amending the county’s employee handbook policy to clarify holiday pay, paid time off and sick leave is only available for full-time employees and not for part-time, temporary or seasonal employees.
  •  Introduced an ordinance to update the county’s FMLA policy in accordance to requirements by the Department of Labor.