'They saved my life': New court program in Manatee County aims to help those living on the streets

Sitting face to face with Manatee County Judge Lon Arend, Henry Tellier is given a chance to turn his life around.

"This program is put together to try to help you so you can put your life in a better place, also to expose you to that there are really people in the system that are here to help you," said Judge Arend.

Tellier was the first to graduate from a new program in Manatee County called Community Care Court.

"We are all so proud of you," said Judge Arend.

The program is made up of a host of community partners, working to help those living on the streets. They work to turn minor offenses like trespassing, panhandling or open container violations into a life-changing moment for those who want it.

"I didn’t have any idea [about] the resources available, honestly, and it’s just overwhelming that so many people want to help you," said one participant.

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Another agreed.

"I really want this," said Carl Markiewicz.

Two months after his court date, Tellier has a place to stay and remains sober.

"You being sober, your health looks completely different," said Sgt. Joy Jewett.

Deputies and case managers with Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Resource Assistant Program Unit check in on Tellier and others.

"What I have here is a blessing. You can’t ask for anything better," said Tellier.

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Sgt. Jewett reaches out to those on the streets. While it can take years, she continues to try.

"We put everything into it once they are willing to try. Sometimes the community is the streets and that’s what’s hard to replace. We stay present as long as needed," said Sgt. Jewett.

The program is done through community partnerships and without any funding. Deputies and others succeed with every person, willing to take a chance.

"They saved my life. These two people here saved my life and I know they could save a lot more than just me," said Tellier.

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