The Homeless and Police

helping people who want helpThe Homeless and Police
Helping those who want help. Removing those who do not want help. Talk about a controversial concept. Or is it? If it is, why? Is holding people accountable wrong or unloving? Is determining who are the troublemakers among the homeless wrong?

As soon as some see the words homeless and police they instantly make assumptions, and some will not read any further. I hope that you are not that close minded. What I am about to share can be beneficial for both society and the homeless. A win-win solution.Who Are the Homeless?
The homeless is made up of a variety of individuals: unemployed, working poor, victims of domestic violence, addicted, mentally ill, active criminals, those who lost their housing for a variety of reasons. Within the wide range of homeless individuals there are those who desire to be homeless, those who desire to live a dysfunctional lifestyle, and those who are wanting to get help (even if it seems by behavior they do not want help).

Who Should Be Helping the Homeless?
As a society we should do all we can to identify those who want help and do what we can to help them. The truth is the responsibility to do this lies mainly upon the public, not government. This does not mean government cannot help or should not help, but on the front lines should be the public, individual citizens that are equipped to help those in need. WE should want to do our part, even if it is a small part instead of looking to government for all the answers. Government should be there to assist us. (We will cover this more in another article.)

Saying the above, many times it is agencies/government that has much interaction with the homeless, one entity is the police.

Identify Who Wants Help
Police officers are not social workers and we should not expect them to be. But police officers to an extent can identify who wants help, who needs help and who would take advantage if help was offered to them. Yes, this can be challenging for officers and most have no training in this realm. More importantly they are more likely to be able to identify who does not want help. Who does not want to obey the law. Who are the blatant criminals and/or troublemakers. Who are harmful to society.

Identify Who Does Not Want Help/Who Are Harmful to Society
Police officers certainly are able to identify those who are continuously breaking the law, troublemakers, those who are continuously interacting with police and citizens in an unhealthy or dangerous manner. The police have a certain amount of authority in dealing with such individuals.

Disclaimer-The following is not my idea. Currently I do not have permission to share who came up with this idea, or the specific details, but I will say they are within city government.

Those Who Do Not Want to Change-Don’t Want Help
As Burien Police interact with the homeless they should become very familiar and educated in regards those who are homeless in Burien who are the ‘problem ones’. They should have on file information (including pictures) on each of these individuals. When they have interaction with them, they should make it clear they will fully enforce all laws (including the Burien Trespassing Ordinance). They should make it clear that their behavior is unacceptable. These individuals should get the message that they are not welcome in the City of Burien. If they are violating the law in any form that justifies being arrested, they should be arrested. They should ‘feel the heat’ to get help to change or leave the city. This policy is for the protection of the residents and visitors of Burien. Burien should be known as a city that does tolerate illegal behavior. Zero tolerance for those who desire to be unproductive/law breaking individuals.

Help Those Who Want Help
The following was recommended in regards to Burien Police being called out on certain problems with a homeless individual. Instead of strictly enforcing certain laws,actually helping individuals to get help instead. Burien Police should do all they can do to help those who desire to change. Those who are looking for help. Those who need help and will take advantage of the help if offered to them. It was suggested that the police officers have a list of resources on hand, including phone numbers of individuals who are willing to be on call to help. It was suggested that officers have bus passes on them to help individuals to get to services offered in Seattle. Even to the point to find ways to transport individuals to Seattle for services. That officers could transport individuals to close by  shelters, food banks, counseling agencies, etc. Their time would be much more effective than transporting someone to jail along with the report writing, etc that goes with it.

Summary
Burien Police should be actively enforcing the laws, and fully supported in doing this, when individuals are clearly identified as troublemakers/lawbreakers. However, they should also be actively offering resources to those who show evidence that they want help, they want to change. Doing what they can with limited resources to get people connected to social services instead of arresting them.

In a later article we will talk about how this would be implemented.

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