FARMINGTON - Farmington's homeless problem is unique, and it's costing the city thousands of dollars every month.

The problem is that many of Farmington's indigents aren't actually involuntarily homeless.

Instead, they are street inebriates, and end up on the streets, in shelters, the jail and at the emergency room because of alcohol and drug-related problems.

On Tuesday, Farmington's City Council heard a presentation that detailed the problem and touched on some of the efforts by law enforcement and local service organizations to get it under control.

"We have 110 runs a night out to the street to deal with intoxicated individuals that are incapable of caring for themselves," said Farmington Police Sgt. Shawn Scott. "We fill up the detox center almost every night."

Farmington's detox center, Four Winds Recovery Center, has 30 beds for protective custody and it costs the city $210 a day per person housed at the facility. The cost to the city doesn't end there.

Another issue is petty crime like shoplifting that is associated with the city's street inebriate problem.

"We can't arrest our way out of this," Scott said. "My officers make about 110 arrests a month for petty crimes."

The city's fire personnel also are called out on a regular basis to deal with inebriate-associated medical emergencies.

"It's really near the breaking point," said Police Chief Kyle Westall.


Much of the presentation focused on a recent trip by Scott, two other Farmington police officers and Farmington Community Relations Commission member Leigh Irvin to Colorado Springs, Colo., to study that city's award winning homeless outreach program.

Approximately 600 homeless individuals in Colorado Springs were living in a park much like Farmington's Animas River trail and park system.

"They were trying to find a better way to get the homeless to the service providers already in the city," Scott said. "They managed to take that 600 people and reduce it to 50."

But city officials can't just duplicate the program here. Scott said they traveled to Colorado to see what would be useful to bring back.

"Our biggest thing is that we don't meet the definition of involuntarily homeless that HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) has," Scott said. "A vast majority here are voluntary homeless and we have a huge substance abuse problem."

One of the things that impressed Scott about the Colorado Springs program was its detox center.

"It's very efficient," Scott said. "It's partnered with the jail and the meals are provided. The trustees (inmates) clean it. We hope to look at that as one aspect we can bring back to Farmington."

Scott also was impressed by the level of resource sharing between service organizations.

"The resource sharing between service providers is phenomenal," Scott said. "They have beaten down the egos, or the feeling of ownership over which program is best, and now share resources and information."

Farmington already is looking to create a similar system of resource sharing among service providers.

Irvin is spearheading the effort, and has already hosted a meeting of local service agencies to begin coordinating services.

"We sent a survey around and asked how often people would be willing to meet," Irvin told the Council on Tuesday. "Most people said once a month at first. At the first meeting we actually had 20 of us altogether. When Colorado Springs had its first one, there were three."

The last recommendation that Scott had was creating a case worker position to deal with street inebriates.

Councilor Dan Darnell asked Westall how serious he was about the case worker idea.

"Very serious," Westall replied. "If you could take the problem individuals off the street, get them into treatment at the right point where they are 60 to 90 days into being sober, I think you might have some impact."

The Council backed efforts to curb the city's street inebriate problem and asked for more recommendations from both law enforcement personnel and the Community Relations Commission. Councilors also acknowledged that efforts to date haven't done enough.

"For years I worked pretty heavily in this area, about 20 years ago," said Councilor Mary Fischer. "I think the downtown merchants have suffered enough. I think we should do a little long term planning and see what is it we want and how do we get it."