As mayor and an officer, he fought the war on drugs, now his legacy will continue.
In 1969 as a Kokomo Police Department officer, Bob Sargent saw the launch of the local war on drugs. Five decades later, the former mayor’s name will adorn the latest initiative to combat drug abuse and homelessness that occurs in the City of Firsts.
The development of Sargent Place kicked off last week with a gathering that included the development’s namesake, two other former mayors, developers, service providers, and various elected officials. The project, located at 707 N. Purdum St., represents a first-of-its-kind supportive housing project aimed at providing homes and wraparound services for families dealing with homelessness and addiction.
“The supportive housing is focused on helping people in need and providing them with a hand up,” said Kokomo Controller Randy Morris, who spoke at the event. “Those who offer their lives to our community in public services understand the need for this kind of housing in Kokomo. So it is appropriate we are here to honor someone who dedicated himself to public service and is graciously lending his name to this project.”
Sargent’s storied public service began with service to his country in the Navy during World War II. He went on to serve 22 years with KPD and was elected to two terms as Howard County Sheriff. Most notably, he also was elected to two terms as mayor of Kokomo, serving within that capacity from 1988 to 1995.
It’s within his capacities as an elected official that he most publically tackled the drug epidemic. As sheriff, he launched the Howard County Drug Task Force, and as mayor he began the Mayor’s Drug Abuse Council along with the Youth Turnaround program, which recognized at-risk students who improved their grades and their lives. Both of the programs launched under Sargent’s tenure as mayor thrive to this day.
It’s this service that makes Sargent a fitting namesake for the 35-unit supportive housing development.
“Drugs don’t just affect the person taking the drugs,” said Sargent. “It’s the whole family. Kids suffer from that, and wives, and husbands. I’m so proud of the effort being made here with this building and some of the people that are managing the building. There’s going to be some people on call all day that will be professionals in the items I just mentioned.”
Construction on Sargent Place is slated to begin this fall, and the developer, Advantix Development Corporation, expects the $7.5 million private development to be completed by the end of 2020.
With the support of Four County Counseling, the Kokomo Housing Authority, the city of Kokomo, and Turning Point, the development aims to provide housing for homeless families where the head or co-head of household suffers from drug addiction or co-occurring mental illness. On-site wraparound services will include drug treatment and mental health services for tenants. Late last year the development was awarded more than $3 million in tax credits and funding by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
When the project was announced last year, officials involved with the project cited a sharp increase in children qualifying as homeless in Howard County as one justification for Sargent Place. In 2007, 49 children in the county qualified as homeless. By 2016, the latest year for which data was available, 444 such cases occurred locally, making Howard County the seventh-highest county in the state for such an issue. The issue, claimed officials, was exacerbated by the drug crisis.
Sargent said he was pleased with the initiative and proud of how far public efforts in combating drug abuse have come since his time in public office.
“You compare where we are today and where we commenced; there’s just no comparison,” said Sargent. “I think this will benefit our community far and away better than we were clumsily trying to do some things with it. It’s taken help from all of our council and everybody involved. But I know it will be a success, and I’m certainly proud to have my name attached to it along with my family.
“I just hope that our community will back this effort. It takes all of us to make something work and to know about and learn about so that we can all help one another. There’s enough knowledge around here that could help any situation. We’re very fortunate to have the kind of people we have in Kokomo. I’ve always been so proud of Kokomo.”