A Different Future

Last night, SLC Police Chief Mike Brown visited First Step House with five police officers and a social worker. They came to talk to the men in treatment as a result of Project Diversion. Project Diversion, also known as "Special Project" is a multi-agency effort established to provide immediate access to substance abuse and mental health treatment for homeless people struggling with addiction and criminal involvement. Last night, the police officers came to have dinner. They sat around the table with our Project Diversion patients, all of whom had extensive histories of addiction, legal involvement, and episodes of homelessness. As they sat facing each other, like a family seated around the dinner table, our patients, the formerly incarcerated, shared their stories. Through their tears, our grown male patients opened up about their childhoods, trauma of addiction, and repeated cycle of use, abuse, and criminal activity. The officers listened thoughtfully. They asked questions. Without judgement. They wanted to know what it was like. What could make the difference for those still living on the streets. How they could help. Sitting there, you could feel something incredible transpiring. Around that table were the men with the handcuffs and the previously handcuffed. But they were sharing a meal. They were talking. They were trying to understand through a different lens; one of compassion, and a shared desire for a different kind of future; one of hope, free of the despair, addiction, poverty, homelessness, and trauma that made up most of their years on this planet. At the end of the meal, the police officers handed out challenge coins to each man and Chief Brown handed out his card with his cell phone number on it. As he handed his card to one of our patients, one of the formerly homeless and incarcerated, he told him that if he ever needed anything, to call his cell phone. Watching the man, with 9 months of sobriety, smile and place the card deep in his pocket, you could feel something incredible happen. In the wake of years of criminal charges, jail time, prison time, drug abuse, and fleeing the men in blue, there is the possibility of a different future. For our patients, the police; for all of us.