Mar 28, 2024 - News

Homeless outreach veteran, who medicated Miami's unsheltered, retires

Lazaro Trueba cuts a retirement cake

Lazaro Trueba cuts a retirement cake from the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. Photo: Martin Vassolo/Axios

Lazaro Trueba can't bring people back from the dead, but he has given many in the homeless community a second chance at life through his work with the Lazarus Project.

Why it matters: The program, named after Trueba and the Biblical figure Jesus resurrected, provides psychotropic medication to unsheltered people living with mental illness.

  • Trueba, a city of Miami special projects assistant, is retiring in April after decades working in homeless outreach. He received an award from the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust last week for his contributions.

Catch up fast: Trueba came up with the idea for the program about 30 years ago, secretly giving unsheltered people their medication without official authorization.

  • His goal was to address the revolving door of the Baker Act, in which unsheltered people were involuntarily committed, given medications and returned to the streets — only to wind up back in the hospital.
  • A doctor told him patients kept coming back because it takes time for psychotropic medications to take effect, and the unsheltered patients weren't taking their medicine, according to the Miami Herald.
  • It wasn't until 2014 that the Lazarus Project was officially born, with recurring funding and a medical team from Camillus House to diagnose patients and prescribe medications.
  • The end goal is to get people permanent housing.

What they're saying: Trueba says in the program's first year, the team was able to find housing for 10 unsheltered people out of 12 total patients.

  • "The program took off from there," Trueba tells Axios. "We've helped so many people."
  • He says he's confident the program is in good hands, but had one message for Miami-Dade Homeless Trust executive director Victoria Mallette:
  • "Please keep funding the program, and don't change its name," he says while laughing.
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