A new program to help homeless individuals facing criminal prosecution for low-level crimes will launch in Riverside County in the coming weeks, officials announced Tuesday.

The Riverside County Partnership for the Homeless Outreach Mediation and Education program will promote community-based treatment to assist homeless defendants with issues such as mental illness, substance abuse disorders, joblessness and family problems.

The program is for those facing sentencing for non-violent and low-level crimes and aims to reduce homelessness and crime through supervision, support and treatment, according to John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

“The two main factors driving the increase in homelessness are substance abuse or addiction and mental illness, and can often be a combination of both,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. “This new collaborative court will allow us to use innovative approaches to getting people into the drug treatment and rehabilitation programs they need.”

Hestrin’s office will work with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Office of the Public Defender, Riverside University Health System – Behavioral Health Department, Riverside County Probation Department and several other community partners for the HOME program.

“Being able to address substance abuse and mental health is the most important aspect of confronting the issues we face with the homeless,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said.

“This program will not only allow offenders to detox in a safe environment where they will receive proper medical and mental health treatments, it will provide the structure and assistance for participants to break the cycle of addiction that contributed to the situation they find themselves in,” Bianco added.

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