Jamal’s Journal: Partnerships forge community
Welcome back to Jamal’s Journal! I would like to follow up on my last journal entry by talking more in-depth about the many ways that local law enforcement agencies partner with service agencies. I will share with you what I have learned thus far about how these connections benefit both the community and the officers who are serving our community and its citizens.
In recent months, I have had the great pleasure to meet several staff members of Hospitality House, including Street Outreach Director Joe Naake. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Joe at length concerning the street outreach program, how it works, and how they partner with local law enforcement to meet the needs of our homeless population.
One way the needs of the homeless community are addressed is through the Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement (HOME) Team, which consists of three agencies working in concert: Hospitality House, Turning Point Providence Center, and Nevada County Behavioral Health.
The focus of these agencies is to provide intensive case management for our unsheltered homeless community members. The primary goal of the outreach program is to identify and contact our homeless members and assess immediate and long-term needs, working collaboratively to get them direct access to the services they need to help stabilize their situation.
Through case management, the long-term goals can be addressed, such as accessing mental and physical health services, addiction treatment services, and of course, the goal of finding long-term permanent housing.
So, where does law enforcement come into play? Grass Valley Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies have been partnering with the HOME Team for nearly two years.
The police department has maintained a team of officers who make regular contact with homeless members of our community, building rapport and trust to assist them with access to services through the HOME Team.
Earlier this year, the city of Grass Valley was awarded a grant through the Board of State and Community Corrections California Violence Intervention and Prevention program. This grant has made it possible for the department to partner an officer with a full-time licensed clinical social worker from Hospitality House, together providing outreach to our homeless community.
The team proactively engages individuals on the street to build trust. The case worker assists with de-escalation and behavioral modification strategies, while the police officer ensures the team’s safety. Similarly, in an unplanned encounter with someone who may potentially become violent, the relationships that have been developed assist in a reduced propensity for violence.
It is our belief that this new program will benefit the community as a whole by addressing the needs of our homeless members and reducing the number of calls for service for law enforcement.
Another goal of this program is to collect and maintain data pertaining to root causes of homelessness in our county. Such data tracking will include issues of mental and physical disability, addiction, loss of employment, victims of domestic violence, etc. Tracking this data will help local agencies to identify the areas of greatest need and increase services accordingly, and also decrease the number of calls for service to local law enforcement.
A component of the overall efforts to enhance service to the homeless population, is the Homeless Outreach Team. This team has representatives from several agencies including all three local law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney’s Office, The Crisis Stabilization Unit, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, the Public Defender’s Office and a forensic liaison.
This team meets bi-weekly to discuss issues of major concern and to assess what additional support services may be needed community-wide and case-specific as may be possible.
Homelessness can happen to nearly anyone at any time. It is wonderful to see that our community has so many great resources for those in need. For those of us who are fortunate to not be in this situation, may we all look upon the homeless members of our community with compassion and maintain a sense of empathy, thus helping them to maintain their dignity.
Jamal Walker is a 30-year resident of Grass Valley, co-founder of the local anti-bias group, Creating Communities Beyond Bias, and the community relations coordinator for the city of Grass Valley. He will file periodic reports on his observations. Email him at Jwalker@gvpd.net.
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Before I tell you about my Darling, I want to follow up on my column from two weeks ago.