Houston Drunks, You Now Have Your Very Own Special Jail

City Council approved today a $4.3 million "sobering center" where those arrested for public intoxication will go instead of jail.

"This will help reduce the city's financial burden for handling public intoxication cases, ease crowding in our city jail and make our streets safer," said Mayor Annise Parker. "There will be services for those who need them, whether in the short term or the long term, and hopefully we'll see real change for them. We hope it eventually also creates savings in the form of reduced operating costs at the city jail."

Treating drunks at the regular jail costs $4-$6 million a year, the city said. The sobering center will have an annual budget of $1.5 million.

The new sobering center will not be mandatory, but will offer some specialized stuff:

Those who choose the Sobering Center will be observed and given necessary outpatient services to manage various intoxication levels. Once sober, detainees will meet with recovery specialists and Star of Hope referral staff who will offer opportunities for long-term treatment with appropriate social service agencies.

It will be located behind the Star of Hope mission in the north end of downtown.

Star of Hope is partnering with the city on the center.

"In other cities, 60-80 percent of the individuals who utilize a Sobering Center are homeless," said Star of Hope President and CEO Hank Rush. "Here in Houston, we'll be on site to counsel and refer them to appropriate providers who can help them with their recovery and transitional needs as they return to independent living."

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