NEW PORT RICHEY — The increasing number of drunken homeless people in Pasco County has risen so much in recent years that Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger is seeking $125,000 from the county to start a jail diversion program similar to one in Pinellas.
"You can't arrest your way out of homelessness," he told Pasco County commissioners Tuesday.
The program targets those are who are known as "chronic inebriates" and provides temporary housing and case management so they can have the opportunity to get sober and find work.
Dillinger said statistics of the program, which began in 2004, show the number of arrests of the 4,856 homeless clients who have been in the program fell by 93 percent after completion.
An expanded program funded with a grant from the Department of Children and Families for three years beginning in 2011 showed a 96 percent decrease in the arrests of the 161 clients with chronic substance abuse problems after they went through the program.
Dillinger praised Pasco for having two centers that accept those confined under the state's Marchman Act, a law that allows family members to commit for treatment those with substance abuse problems.
He also complimented the county's mobile medical clinic, bought in 2012 for $25,000. The unit makes visits three days a week to more than a dozen locations to provide the homeless with basic medical care.
Pasco commissioners will take up Dillinger's request when they consider the proposed 2014-15 budget in July.