By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine
July 12, 2019 (San Diego) -- The San Diego County Sheriff's deputies have been collaborating with community partners to provide outreach to the homeless. Now, the Sheriff's Department has assigned a team of deputies to work exclusively in cooperation with county governmental and non-governmental organizations on homeless outreach and services throughout unincorporated areas.
This Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART) began operations on June 10th and is assigned full-time to this effort. These deputies will expand law enforcement systems to the homeless population, including medical and psychiatric wellness, food and shelter, identification and documentation needs and any public benefits access.
This pilot project will identify the best ways to help the county's homeless population and improve the quality of life for the citizens served by the Sheriff's Department.
Video provided to media showed sheriff’s deputies contacting a homeless man living in a make-shift encampment in a riverbed, hidden among towering reeds.
Sergeant Kenny Lawrence with the HART team says deputies assist Dept. of Public Works to conduct cleanup of some sites for health reasons but always outreaches to those camped at the sites a few days ahead to provide resources.
If no one is there but there are belongings and/or makeshift housing present, we post a sign informing anyone in the area of the upcoming clean up as well as where the property will be stored and how to retrieve it,” he says, adding, “We do not go in and take anyone's personal items for destruction.”
He adds, “When we encounter animals, we understand that there is a strong connection between the owner and the pet. We do everything we can to keep the two together. If for some reason this cannot be accomplished, we would utilize the animal services for the area and the owner would be informed how to retrieve their pet when they are able to do so.”
Homeless individuals are offered hotel vouchers and services.
“The goal of all of our outreach operations is to get those in need into permanent housing. The hotels work as a way to bridge the gap from homelessness and permanent housing,” Sgt. Lawrence says. “It also helps our outreach partners know where the individual is, so that the proper resources can be given to that individual.”