Police Response to Homelessness: Promising Practices and Partnerships for Criminal Justice Professionals

Police Response to Homelessness: Promising Practices and Partnerships for Criminal Justice Professionals
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-04-01
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Police Response to Homelessness
Unit 2 Transcript: Police Response to Homelessness
Unit 3 Workbook: Police Response to Homelessness
Unit 4 Recording: Police Response to Homelessness

Law enforcement has been the first responder and default go-to entity for so many incidents that they really shouldn’t be involved in the first place. With the realization that they cannot enforce their way around homelessness, they have been moving away from arrest-focused methods and started welcoming a multi-disciplinary approach. This session unpacks homelessness, the various efforts by law enforcement to address this, the researches that aim to evaluate these initiatives, and the challenges expected as outcomes given present circumstances.

Back on Justice Clearinghouse to lead the discussion is Dr. Sean Goodison, Deputy Director and Senior Research Criminologist at the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). He studies and evaluates programs implemented by agencies across different levels to have a better understanding of some of the most pressing problems of law enforcement today.

The webinar tackles:

  • Understanding homelessness and its categories and prevalence of this societal problem as demonstrated by historical trends, most impacted regions, states and demographics, and co-occurring conditions.
  • Developments in law and society that created the current state where homelessness and law enforcement intersect.
  • Law enforcement’s effort to shift away from the criminalization of homelessness and recognition of the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to address the needs of the homeless population more holistically.
  • A glimpse into the researches being conducted to better understand the issue of homelessness, the experience of the homeless, and available policies and interventions.
  • Challenges across three milestone studies that center on inaccurate reporting, inconsistency with definitions, and inadequate integration of available data that makes it difficult to draw conclusions.
  • The attempt to develop a comprehensive research agenda that will dictate the direction in which the issue of homelessness will be addressed through the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative.
  • The methodology, the involved entities, and the structure of the discussion that aimed to break down identified needs related to homelessness based on priority.
  • The four major categories under which the needs identified fall into:
    • Promising LE practice and policy that looks into evaluating promising practices, and identifying and publishing best practices.
    • Partnerships with service providers/communities that examine the options available outside law enforcement and the cost-benefit of a combined versus a siloed approach.
    • Data collection, integration, and evaluation that will leverage all potential data sources to inform better decision-making tailored to the needs and conditions of the community.
    • Basic research and education to identify why the homeless refuse services being offered, and understand the intersection of homelessness to mental health and substance abuse issues.
  • The future challenges stakeholders are yet to tackle in terms of evaluating current efforts and data gathered based on these, the potential impact of defunding, and the ramifications of the pandemic.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • How deinstitutionalization resulted in the rise of individuals with mental illness who are homeless.
  • Intricacies and considerations in the effort to identify who the homeless population are to aid response.
  • Shifting away from enforcement despite law enforcement remaining to be the front-facing entity to respond to homelessness.


Other Webinars with this Presenting Organization



Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “The data was very helpful, approaches for interventions, and the additional downloads available! Great presentation!”  — Vanessa
  • “Great statistics that we don’t usually get to see. Very interesting comparison from 1993 to 2020! Thank you for the info!” — PATTY
  • “The discussion was clear and information concerning Indio Police and Arizona University working to collect data was helpful, as well as the handouts. Thank you!” — Oweeda
  • “Knowing that there is still so much to learn on this topic. That my agency needs to do more evaluations and research to better assist the homeless population.” — Laural
  • “The statistical breakdown was very interesting. I think when we realize that PEH is not restricted to people of color then it can be understood that it affects everyone.” — Harry
  • “I am not a research person but am very interested in the possible solutions and what can be done to address the unsheltered population. I liked the research in that it points you in a direction and I really like when it’s pointed out the programs that are successful and are doing something constructive to address the issue. Thank you for the presentation. Extremely informative.” — Berta



Additional Resources
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After the Webinar: Police Response to Homelessness. Q&A with Dr. Sean Goodison
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