The state of homelessness is getting worse, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development highlighted the magnitude of the issue reporting that more than half a million Americans are homeless at any given night. Homelessness is typically addressed by arresting the homeless – an approach that doesn’t quite solve the problem. More and more police departments are now employing a more solution-focused effort through Homeless Outreach Teams. The secret to this approach: Housing cures homelessness.
Daniel McDonald of the Tampa Police Department is this session’s resource speaker. A veteran of 26 years working in law enforcement and corrections, he led the initiative that changed police response to homelessness. Through a no-nonsense approach, he spearheaded Tampa’s Police Homeless Outreach team that advocates problem-oriented, intelligence-led and community-focused policing. He received awards, commendations, and media attention on his efforts to resolve homelessness.
On this course, Daniel tackled points including:
- The seemingly inescapable homeless circle of life driven by socioeconomic variables, substance dependencies, mental illnesses that typically end with the individual in jail.
- The iceberg effect of homelessness where society often only sees the most extreme cases of homelessness remaining oblivious to the hidden, temporary and non-chronic homelessness cases.
- A look into the living conditions of the country’s homeless.
- Outlining the reasons why every community must have its own Police Homeless Outreach Team.
- The impossibility of isolating homelessness as not a part of police duty when they’re the ones responding for calls for service when homeless people need assistance.
- The pyramid of social inertia that determines how a community responds to homelessness and the outcomes of each choice.
- Providing a quicker, easier and cheaper solution to homelessness that addresses the issues without too many conditions to hinder its success.
- How a solution-focused approach to homelessness can drastically reduce the cost of services being utilized by homeless individuals including medical, corrections and rehabilitation.
- The fact that implementing Homeless Outreach Teams are proven to be effective in actually addressing the issue, with established best practices, systems and procedures that may be adopted by any jurisdiction.
- Its ability to leverage collaboration across agencies and the community.
- The reality that arresting the homeless doesn’t solve the problem and costs more than having a housing program in place.
- The potential litigation involved by choosing to arrest homeless individuals.
- The ease of creating a Police Homeless Outreach Team than can be started small and scaled eventually based on the needs of the jurisdiction.
- The approach’s commitment to real solutions as opposed to short-term fixes of merely reducing the appearance of homelessness and hiding the problem.
- Questions addressed by Daniel during the Q&A concerned:
- Finding the people to be a part of the homeless outreach team.
- How faith-based organizations are able to assist the homeless outreach team.
- Challenges that hinder other agencies from launching a similar program.
- What visiting the homeless looks like.
- Overcoming objections from the agency and community and getting buy-in for the program.
- “Leaning the cost of street homelessness vs. housing for the homelessness in a permanent dwelling; the hope that lives can be changed one life at a time. I loved the wedding!!! there IS hope!! Encourages me to do something with my retirement in 2020! Thank you.” — Pamela
- “The breadth of vectors for addressing these admittedly complex and at times frustrating, issues. Additionally, the lineage of court decisions referenced that can be used to “educate” those who previously have refused to be educated! Thank you…As ALWAYS!!!” — John
- “Looking forward to January for his Part 2. Excellent speaker with an important topic.” — Robert
- “Being real about a huge problem.” — Vivienne