The Top 10 Reasons to Start a Police Homeless Outreach Team
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 Homeless Innovations, LLC 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
How to Start a Police Homeless Outreach Team in Three Easy Steps
After answering the whys for a law enforcement agency to launch their own Police Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), Daniel McDonald’s second webinar in the series will deep-dive into the hows of actually implementing this. Daniel’s straightforward approach to resolving the issue of homelessness by providing them with housing may be easier said than done – but it can be accomplished using Daniel’s tried and tested blueprint and helpful guidelines.
Daniel McDonald has been in the field for 26 years, one of his most notable contributions being a revolutionary initiative to address homelessness and panhandling through the Homeless Outreach Team (2012). His efforts resulted with hundreds of clients being provided with housing and reducing homelessness within the jurisdiction. His work has garnered attention from various media outlets worldwide.
Points Daniel discussed on this session are:
- How to start your Homeless Outreach Team.
- Acknowledging the impact law enforcement can bring by getting involved in the issue of homelessness.
- The significance of having the support and commitment of leaders and elected officials to the initiative.
- Concentrating on outcomes and performance by starting with a small but actionable set of cases than hundreds that may cause overwhelm.
- Setting priorities based on the Pyramid of Social Inertia by moving away from status quo and reactionary response through criminalization towards more proactive and long-term homeless solutions.
- The criteria for the team members based on their skills and qualities and other considerations when it comes to the priorities, mindset, and operations of the team.
- Starting small and thinking big: Getting a Homeless Outreach Team off the ground with limited resources through big impact programs.
- Developing Systems to get your team started.
- Creating systems along the way based on solutions that have been found to be effective.
- Maximizing existing services before thinking of duplicating these.
- Seeking guidance from or partner with other agencies who have an existing or similar program, or are working towards a similar goal.
- The critical elements of an effective homelessness system and how each of these operate.
- Identifying your clients to better understand the issues, needs, and opportunities for intervention.
- Understanding the link between homelessness and panhandling to develop a plan that can address this.
- Developing Community Partnerships to assist with the efforts.
- Joining your Continuum of Care (CoC) to lead the initiative and utilizing their Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) database to drive data-driven solutions.
- Fostering working relationships with different agencies that can provide assistance and resources for the homeless’ different needs and hasten its delivery.
- Working with the media to raise the community’s awareness on the efforts and influence their perception of law enforcement.
- Holding outreach events that allows the homeless to connect with resources that can assist them.
Resources mentioned during the webinar:
- “I liked the actionable information at the end.” — Brenda
- “I liked the flow charts he uses. They seem to walk us through the red tape that sometimes is involved.” — Donna
- “What a great summary of how officers can build and operate within a system that is focused on solving problems rather than on measuring numbers of contacts and activities. Very helpful information and I might add, very much in keeping with the generally excellent quality of training offered by Justice Clearinghouse.” — Joni
- “It is more cost-efficient to provide housing for the homeless than spending the money on outreach programs.” — Rose
Saving Money While Saving Lives: Building a Business Case for a Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we are all told to stay home and stay safe. But what happens to those who do not have homes? Under normal circumstances, there are more than half a million Americans that are homeless at any given night. Now that we’re in a public health crisis, it is this segment of the population that are at high risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 because of their living conditions. This session is the third of Daniel McDonald’s webinar series on homelessness. He’s discussed why agencies must implement Homeless Outreach Teams (HOT), the concept of Housing First, and his blueprint on how to carry out an effective approach to address homelessness in his past courses.
Daniel McDonald has been in law enforcement and corrections for 26 years. His most noteworthy role in the field is his assignment to lead the initiative to address homelessness. Through his efforts, he’s provided housing for hundreds of clients and reduced homelessness significantly.
In this third part of the series, he discusses the economics of homelessness with a focus on the current COVID-19 pandemic. Specifics include:
- The Iceberg effect, the Pareto principle and the Homeless Circle of Life that provide insights on the expanse of the homelessness issue and why it is costing significant tax dollars.
- How the chronically homeless are the highest utilizers of public services and an estimate of the annual costs of homelessness.
- The tri-morbidity that the homeless typically deal with that factors into the cost of homelessness and how these put them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
- The housing options that may be utilized to provide the homeless shelter and its estimated costs per day.
- The much bigger cost of hospitalization and medical attention if the homeless contract coronavirus because of the inability to put them into proper housing.
- How a good and effective housing model provides huge government savings and even reduce calls for service from the homeless segment.
- The Staircase Model of Ending Homelessness that opens up more barriers than solutions to homelessness and why it is no longer endorsed as a program.
- The Housing First Model: A more humane, sustainable, and affordable model that delivers cost savings and results as seen in jails and health service providers.
- Million Dollar Billy: A case study that showed the link between homelessness and criminal activity and how housing can address increasing crime rates and rising jail population.
- Guidelines on police response to homelessness amidst the current pandemic.
- Using homelessness housing options for COVID-19 response as quarantine or isolation house or as a release valve for shelters in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
Points Daniel addressed during the Q&A were on:
- Establishing the role of the homeless outreach team as separate from enforcement.
- Pet-friendly options for housing.
- Transitioning a homeless client from the outreach team to a social worker and coordination between the teams.
- Recommendations on how to best shelter the homeless who are found to be COVID-positive.
Handouts and Resources
- CDC Guidelines: Responding to the Coronavirus Disease among People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness
- Blog Post: Police and Effective Response to Homelessness
- Police One Article: Why Police Must Continue Homeless Outreach during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- “I enjoyed the insight into a topic that not many people talk about, though we touch on homeless, we rarely get into the “whys” and the “how can I help.” It was nice to look into some logistics of the situation regarding the homeless, in regards to finances, etc. I thought this was a great webinar.” — Brandon
- “The topic is one not thought of before for my community. All information is valuable.” — Patricia
- “Excellent information. Thought-provoking. I work at a shelter for women and children and serve walk-in clients who are homeless on the street. Will mention to our local police.” — Judy
- “Great topic one I personally encounter quite a few times as a Probation Officer. It is great to know how to help homeless individuals obtain temporary and or permanent shelter so that they are not recurrent visitors in the criminal justice systems and or housed in jail just because they have not a place to call home.” — Marie
- “I got a clearer understanding of a practical and implementable solution to homelessness.” — Stefanie
- “Excellent program.” — Robert
Lack of identification for the homeless continues to be a major obstacle for jobs, housing and other services. A classic conundrum is that a client cannot obtain an ID card without a birth certificate but cannot about a birth certificate without an ID. Now what?
Homeless Liaison Officer Daniel McDonald has developed an easy, three-stop process that has revolutionized the ID process.
This webinar will provide an overview of the required forms and documentation necessary to get a State of Florida ID card (at no cost to the client). We will also highlight the process for obtaining birth certificates, consular records of birth abroad as well as immigration documentation.
Community partnerships are also critical to a successful ID program. The webinar also covers how to develop MOUs and partnerships with agencies such as county tax collectors and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).
Finally, Daniel McDonald will highlight actual cases along with success stories as examples of real-world situations you may also encounter
- Participants will learn how to get a State of Florida ID Card from start-to-finish.
- Participants will learn to how order birth certificates and ID card documentation requirements.
- Participants will learn how effective community partnerships can dramatically reduce the time and expense of obtaining ID cards.