Today, the Houston City Council formally approved funding for a city sobering center and the Local Government Corporation (LGC) which will operate it. This is an important first step in achieving the City of Houston’s goal of getting out of the jail business.
Mayor Pro-Tem Gonzalez, an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, has made the creation of a sobering center a priority of his tenure on Houston City Council. Over the past two years, he has worked closely with Mayor Annise Parker and his council colleagues to make the new center a reality.
The 84-bed facility will be located at an existing Star of Hope warehouse on Ruiz Street in downtown Houston. It will also serve as the home of the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Unit, which had previously been housed throughout the city. The unique arrangement of having the sobering facility and the Mental Health Unit on the same site is an innovative approach to ensuring a high-quality of service is provided. Those arrested on public intoxication charges will have the option of being transported to the facility, where they will be allowed to ‘sober up’ in a monitored environment. Upon release, it will serve as a point of access to those in need of addiction treatment, mental care, homeless services, or other social services.
The City of Houston makes an average of 15,000 public intoxication arrests annually, which cost between $4-6 million to process at the city jail. The new center will cost approximately $1.5 million annually, which covers the lease of the building, the staff, maintenance, and operations.