New numbers show progress at Rochester's 'wet house' - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

New numbers show progress at Rochester's 'wet house'

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- For several months now, Rochester has been exploring a new way to get homeless alcoholics off the streets.

After years of hauling people to the "drunk tank" to sober up, again and again, Olmsted County created a different kind of treatment program more than seven months ago.

Some call it a "wet house" where alcoholics are allowed to live and drink there.

When the NewsCenter first met Bob Hicks in March, he told us, "It's either quit this crap or die."

Hicks, like the 34 other people who live at Silver Creek Corner, are considered chronic alcoholics.

But as site director Chad Ramaker explains, "This is not for alcoholism, this is for long-term homelessness."

Since its opening more than seven months ago, 43 different clients have lived at Silver Creek Corner.

Before joining the residence, they went through 363 treatments and were placed at 156 different group homes or halfway houses.

Is this a waste of taxpayers' money?

Detox admits are down, with a 196 before and five in the first three months.

However, seven people have been kicked out so far, many times because their primary addiction isn't alcohol.

"If it's some other illicit drug those people often don't mix with our population," Ramaker said.

For those who stick around, having a stable address means more family contact.

"One individual was able to go to her son's wedding and was able to remain sober for that event," Ramaker added.

Hicks has been at the center for more than seven months.

He considers the residents and staff his "family."

"There's some people here that knew me when I was on the streets and they're like, you're not the same Bob. You're better," Hicks said.

Four months ago, Hicks drank an average of 18 beers a day, plus hard liquor.

Each resident is given $89 a month for personal use, many choose to buy alcohol.

But Hicks' intake has been cut in half.

"I'm drinking water and coffee, a lot of lemonade. I'd like to have some tea," he said.

He attends sober activities, like time in the community garden.

Hicks also receives proper medical care and no longer walks with a cane.

"I'm happy... (laughs)... I'm really happy," Hicks proclaimed.

This program is still in its early stages but at San Marco in Duluth, 11 residents admitted in the past year had 63 admissions to detox the year prior to admission and 0 admissions to detox after admission.

40 San Marco clients showed an average of 11.5 criminal misdemeanors prior to admission, and 2.2 during residence.

19 residents had no police record after admission to the facility.

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