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New program provides housing for Operation Rio Grande drug court clients

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes have unveiled a new program to place people in affordable housing while receiving treatment for substance abuse.

The sober living voucher program pays housing costs for eligible clients while they look for employment and get back on their feet.

"This program focuses on the transition from treatment back into community. It gives an individual up to three months of support and housing, allowing them to look for work and a more permanent place to live," McAdams said in a press conference Monday morning.

The program benefits people like Destiny Garcia, who was one of thousands of people arrested in "Operation Rio Grande" - a collaborative effort aimed at restoring public safety in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande area.

Garcia said she began using drugs to cope with the trauma of being a domestic violence victim. She was arrested on August 21 on warrants related to shoplifting charges and old traffic tickets.

"In September, someone from the jail pulled me from my section and a whole [...] team of people were there to talk to me, and where they offered me treatment - inpatient treatment - due to Operation Rio Grande," Garcia said. "When I saw a whole team of people there to talk to me, I was overwhelmed and excited. I was in tears. I knew I needed help. I was homeless and I wanted this."

So far, there are seven sober living homes scattered throughout Salt Lake County, and more are planned. The sober living voucher program is part of Operation Rio Grande's third phase, "Dignity of Work." This phase also helps participants with transportation needs, skills development, résumé and interview preparations and other means to help them ultimately become self-sufficient.