Assistance for Homeless Residents
May 19, 2017
A team of experts has been taking to the streets in an effort to provide services to San Diego’s most vulnerable citizens.
Mental health and treatment counselors, housing specialists and representatives from the County’s Health and Human Services Agency and other service organizations have been on patrol to find people who are homeless and connect them with services that may assist them in finding a way off the streets.
“We’re bringing resources directly to those who need them,” said Officer Christopher Harrison, who weekly incursions into local streets through the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team.
The Homeless Outreach Team gathers law enforcement officers along with experts in issues affecting the homeless population. Officers usually accompany a psychiatric clinician and County human services specialists.
The team tries on a daily basis to engage persons looking to find housing and putting the streets behind them. The team assists homeless individuals by facilitating entry into shelters and linking them with appropriate services.
According to a homeless census conducted by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless found there are over 9,000 homeless men, women and children in the San Diego region, a 5 percent increase compared to 2016. Of those, 5,621 are unsheltered or living in the streets; that is a 14 percent increase compared to the previous year.
“[These] outreach events allow us to develop a relationship of trust. Homeless people are more willing to work with us and we’re able to connect them to resources,” Harrison said.
“Our goal is to end their homelessness however we can,” said Kathleen Hemesath, a human services specialist with the County Health and Human Services Agency, who has been working with the outreach team for five years. “The service providers are here today to help with activities we do every day.”
During these daily outreach efforts, officers and service providers can come in contact with over 55 homeless individuals.
Often times homeless residents end the day with access to new benefits such as CalFresh and Medical applications, fee waivers for a new driver’s license or identification cards, and contact with Social Security officers to review cases. All of this in addition to shelter, psychiatric help and many more services.
“A lot of people encountering homelessness don’t know these resources are available,” Hemesath concluded. “The Homeless Outreach Team is always out. We are bringing the services to the people.”