Since he was 14, Chris Culcasi’s drug and alcohol addictions have led him in and out of prison and homelessness. While incarcerated at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, he found his path to a better life: Horses.
“I could identify with them. It was probably the first time I ever had a feeling for something that wasn’t drug-induced,” said Culcasi, who worked in a program that offers inmates the opportunity to train wild horses for adoption. “I realized they were just looking for a leader and I started to feel like I could be a leader and I could do this.”
After his release, Culcasi set out to start a new career as a farrier. To be accepted into a trade school, however, he had to prove he was able to stay sober.
“For the first time in my life, I was willing to do a program,” he said.
Culcasi benefited from a 2017 initiative passed in Sacramento County aimed at reducing homelessness. The Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program (FSRP) provides help with securing housing as well as intensive case management that supports clients in maintaining that housing through medical, mental and behavioral health care, employment assistance, expungement services and other supports. According to Neil Kurtz, Program Planner for the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance (DHA), these initiatives were the first by the County to specifically target frequent users of services.
“Our participants are building these relationships with their case managers who are going to look out for them and connect them with services,” said Kurtz. “You’re going to see less recidivism and lower costs over time because housing with services allows people to rebuild their lives and address issues.”
According to Kurtz, the difference between past programs and these initiatives is more intentional collaboration with county departments and nonprofits. In addition to connecting people with county departments and the nonprofit service provider, DHA works with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, Sacramento Steps Forward, the Public Defender’s office, child and adult protective services, probation departments and more.
“It involves additional support services that can address the long-term trauma and chronicity of somebody who has been on the street or in an encampment for a while,” Kurtz said. “Those additional support services are equally important as the housing that’s being offered.”
Today, Culcasi owns his own business, is stably housed, paid off his child support lien and is making victim restitution payments. He credits his caseworkers with helping him get his life back on track.
“I had a team help me learn how to pay bills, they helped me rebuild my credit, build up renter’s history and they gave me all the moral support I needed to get through it,” he says. “I never fell through the cracks once. It takes a lot for somebody like me to get this far. I was in a hole that most people never get out of.”