Oceanside Launches North County's First Police Homeless Outreach Team
The success of the City of San Diego’s police Homeless Outreach Team has led to the City of Oceanside adopting the same approach to help end veteran and chronic homelessness.
Unlike past police practices of using enforcement to deal with homeless individuals, the HOT Team works to actively connect people with social services and housing.
Police Lieutenant Karen Laser leads Oceanside's new team.
“The HOT team is a team of two officers whose goal is to end the cycle of homelessness for those that are chronically homeless, for veterans, for anyone who's fallen off their path if you will,” Laser said. “And they are there to be their advocate to assist them in getting back on the right track.”
Laser said it took a year to get the HOT Team up and running, and they learned a lot from the San Diego Police HOT Team’s experience.
Oceanside adjusted its practices to fit its smaller city size, and its homeless population of about 420, who chiefly live in rural encampments.
A day on the job for a HOT Team officer involves contacting homeless individuals on foot, pinning down the best matches in regional services to assist each person, and transporting individuals to those services.
Securing services, offered through a regional collaboration under the umbrella of Alliance for Regional Solutions, can take from a day to a week.
Follow up assistance entails arranging a date, time and place to meet with homeless individuals who do not have a phone or a residence.
Since operations began in December 2014, the HOT Team has contacted about 50 homeless individuals. Laser said half of those individuals have accepted help.
“Twenty-five out of 50 - one out of 50 would be great,” Laser said. “So I think we’re making an improvement out there.”
One success story she described is a woman with mental illness who changed from yelling at people and living on the streets to accepting help, receiving needed medication and finding housing. Laser said the woman could now contribute to society.
Oceanside runs the only North County law enforcement HOT Team. Other agencies are considering starting homeless outreach teams as part of North County's new commitment to the "25 Cities" initiative to end homelessness.