Temenos Place III: Offering innovative homelessness approach

Houston will soon break new ground when it comes to providing care for the homeless with the opening of Temenos Place Apartments III (1703 Gray, Houston, 77003), a housing program for the chronically inebriate that throws all traditional rules aside, while adding a novel wrinkle that organizers believe will prove wildly successful.

“What makes Temenos III so unique is that it is the first model in Texas for homeless chronic inebriates with a focus on Housing First and Harm Reduction supported by the evidence based trans-theoretical model, with a specialization in African-American cultural competency,” said Rev. Dr. Simeon Queen, executive director of Temenos CDC (TCDC) & Bread of Life, Inc. (BOL), the entities responsible for the complex and its predecessors.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, who made confronting the problem of homelessness a major part of his platform, views Temenos III as a godsend.

“I want to thank Pastor Rudy Rasmus and his organization for their work with The Way Home program to help our most vulnerable,” said Turner.

“Temenos III is an innovative solution for our homeless who are dealing with substance abuse issues.  Having a safe place to lay your head that is coupled with supportive services is a critical step toward leaving the streets behind.”

Established in 2006 as a non-profit by Rasmus, pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church, TCDC was created to identify affordable housing projects to manage that serve extremely-low to low-income persons as well as homeless individuals.

Working in partnership with BOL, TCDC opened the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments in November 2009. Underwritten by Beyoncé, Solange and Tina Knowles, that project provides affordable permanent housing for 43 single individuals.

When Temenos Place Apartments II comes online, it will provide over 80 housing units for homeless and extremely low-income persons.

Temenos III, scheduled to open this spring, won’t be nearly as big in scope, but potentially huge in impact.

“It will provide 15 units specifically for homeless individuals who are chronic intoxicated, targeting individuals who are super utilizers of the substance abuse, homeless and health care systems,” said Marc Eichenbaum, special assistant to the mayor for Homeless Initiatives.

What’s shocking to some about Temenos III is its unorthodox housing-first approach.

“There are no requirements to be in a certain program or stop drinking,” Eichenbaum said. “These are all barriers to entry for those suffering most from substance abuse. So we remove all those variables, and in a stable environment we can reduce the number of times residents go to a hospital or sobering center, or pass out in the middle of the neighborhood.”

According to Queen and Eichenbaum, Temenos III is not just about restoring individuals, but decreasing their impact upon the communities around them and the systems they touch. Their optimism about the program’s potential success seems well-founded.

This housing-first approach was tried in other cities with amazing results. In Seattle, one of its programs cut down trips to sobering centers in and out of Seattle sought to help homeless chronic inebriants by using the same approach and emphasizing the healing power of a positive, stable environment. Their results: the 75 residents drank a third less, and taxpayers saved $1.8 million from fewer emergency-room visits, 911 calls and nights in jail over 12 months.

“TCDC, Pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus, Pastor Yvette Tarrant, St. John’s UMC, the Center for Supportive Housing (CSH), the Coalition for The Homeless and myself are responsible for bringing Temenos III to Houston,” said Queen, “to help those who are homeless and battling with alcoholism to find a safe space to heal and grow.”

“We’ll offer programs but people won’t be required to participate. What we’ve found is when people can make their own choices voluntarily, people find more successes,” said Eichenbaum.

Still, several services will be available, including “life coaches, licensed professional counselors, case managers, licensed chemical dependency counselors, case workers and extended property management facilitated from 8 a.m.-1am with 24-hour total coverage,” Queen said.

“And our housing-first approach is cheaper,” Eichenbaum said.

Though a special assistant to Mayor Turner, Eichenbaum works with The Way Home partners, a comprehensive homeless housing system made up of over 100 different organizations that have housed over 8,000 individuals since 2012. Temenos III will be their first attempt at meeting the needs of chronic inebriants.

One of The Way Home partners is the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) that offers various services to help the homeless secure housing, including providing capital funds, specialty loans and other services to entities like TCDC.

Loan officer Kathyrn Turner administrates CSH’s Permanent Supportive Housing Capital Grant Program (PSH) in Houston.

“The PSH is a philanthropic collective effort to get dollars available to supportive housing projects in Houston, with Temenos III being one that we funded,” Turner said. “We’ve secured grant funds but are continuing to work to make sure all capital financing needs are met.”

CSH donated $2 million toward Temenos III.

An added bonus is that renowned artist Michael Savoie will provide Temenos III with his collection titled, “Expensive Waste.” Also, when the opening takes place, artist *Michael Savoie* will unveil a new piece on Temenos CDC success story, resident Ren Moore.