Homeless Outreach/Enforcement During COVID-19 and Cold Weather Months


For the previous couple years, town of Fullerton has been legally unable to implement its “anti-camping” ordinance (ticketing folks for sleeping outdoors) because of the court docket case Martin v. Boise and the federal lawsuit Orange County Catholic Worker v. County of Orange, et al which require cities to, at a minimal, present shelter beds for 60% of their homeless inhabitants earlier than they’ll implement “anti-camping” ordinances. Mainly, in line with the regulation, cities can’t criminalize poverty.

These authorized necessities have prompted cities in north Orange County—most just lately Placentia, Buena Park, and Fullerton—to open “navigation facilities” which can be homeless shelters with wraparound social providers, with the last word purpose to get folks the assistance they want and get them into everlasting housing.

This yr, in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, town of Fullerton, in partnership with Illumination Basis, a non-profit homeless providers supplier, opened its first navigation/recuperative care center in a former industrial constructing close to the Fullerton Airport.

The Navigation Heart is positioned at 3535 W. Commonwealth Ave.

The eating room mural was created by Brian Peterson of Faces of Santa Ana.

In October, Fullerton officers, in partnership with federal Choose David O. Carter, who has taken a really hands-on strategy to creating certain that cities adjust to the necessities of the regulation, legal professional Brooke Weitzman, who introduced the lawsuit on behalf of homeless people in Orange County, Cal Trans, CityNet, Fullerton’s contracted homeless outreach organization, the Fullerton Police Division, and several other non-profits, started conducting the “enhanced” outreach that’s essential for the Metropolis to, maybe, start implementing its anti-camping ordinance once more.

Man sleeping on bench in Fullerton. Picture by Roussan Joshua Collins.

In accordance with Fullerton’s Deputy Metropolis Supervisor Antonia Graham, throughout this latest outreach over 125 homeless residents had been positioned into native shelters or reunited with members of the family.

“Based mostly on the outreach we at the moment are allowed to implement Metropolis’s laws,” Graham mentioned.

Whereas this can be technically true, Metropolis Supervisor Ken Domer mentioned, “‘Enforcement in our minds shouldn’t be arresting somebody. We (the Metropolis and FPD) perceive that that isn’t productive and in at this time’s setting does completely nothing besides tie up an officer or two for greater than three hours to conduct paperwork so that somebody is then re-released again to the streets to begin the cycle over again. The rationale now we have gone by means of the final 4-6 weeks of intense engagement and outreach is to get folks off the streets and right into a shelter. So, it’s much less a matter of ‘enforcement’ and extra a capability to have leverage to inspire somebody to get off the road.”

In accordance with Fullerton’s Deputy Director of Group and Financial Improvement Kellee Fritzal, in the course of the latest outreach there have been no arrests or citations given.

“We had our Homeless Police Liaison Officers simply providing providers and being back-up if there have been any issues,” Fritzal mentioned. “The purpose was to have ‘civilians’ up entrance providing providers…We have now not issued any tickets or citations. That could be a final resort, if wanted. There may be area at our shelters…we’ll proceed outreach and providing providers.”

Choose Carter buys a homeless man in Fullerton a prepare ticket to re-unite along with his household in Maine.

“It’s our hope that our homeless neighbors will take us up on gives of shelter or different obtainable packages,” Fullerton Police Chief Bob Dunn mentioned. “So, we’ll first ask if they’re keen to go to shelter or obtain associated providers. In the event that they refuse, enforcement is a risk.”

In accordance with Dunn, interplay between police and the homeless is prompted by considered one of three issues:

1. A name for service. Residents, enterprise house owners, and guests will name to report if our homeless neighbors are participating in what they imagine to be unlawful conduct. In accordance with police division knowledge, of the over 42,000 requires service in 2020, over 5,000 had been particularly homeless-related.

2. Outreach days. FPD accompanies its outreach supplier, Metropolis Internet, on varied days of the week as Metropolis Internet leads homeless outreach.

3. Psychological Well being Outreach. The FPD has a long-standing partnership with the Orange County Well being Care Company and has a Psychological Well being Clinician assigned to the Division. Typically, FPD will accompany him/her as they lend outreach to these in want of psychological well being providers.

In accordance with legal professional Brooke Weitzman, folks experiencing homelessness in Fullerton have rights and due course of below the regulation, in addition to from the settlement settlement from the lawsuit. The FPD can’t write an individual a quotation or drive them to maneuver with out first making certain that the Orange County Behavioral Well being Companies has engaged with that individual.

Then, if the Well being Companies has engaged with that individual, the query turns into, Is there an applicable mattress for that individual?

If the individual has a extreme and protracted psychological well being situation and they’re ready for the County psychological well being program to get them a mattress, FPD can’t do any enforcement in opposition to that individual, in line with Weitzman.

Additionally, throughout COVID-19, many homeless seniors aren’t going to enter congregate shelters as a result of it’s harmful for them to stay in a constructing with 100 different folks throughout a pandemic.

“They (the FPD) must name the County, or the choose, or us with the intention to make a plan to get them into that applicable stage of care,” Weitzman mentioned. “That is smart as a result of forcing that individual right into a congregate setting can be dangerous for them and different folks.”

Moreover, if that individual says they want a “low-barrier” shelter the place they’ll depart in the course of the day, then the police may have the ability to get them certified to enter Placentia shelter or the Salvation Military shelter in Anaheim. But when there’s not a kind of low-barrier beds obtainable, they must let that individual keep the place they’re till one turns into obtainable.

Due to COVID-19, some native shelters (together with Fullerton’s) have turn out to be “high-barrier” shelters, proscribing daytime motion of residents.

In spite of everything these necessities have been met and an officer writes a homeless individual a ticket, there’s a “dispute decision course of” through which Choose Carter can determine whether or not the mattress being supplied is acceptable or not.

“Plus, there’s an abundance of proof as to why ‘enforcement’ shouldn’t be productive,” Weitzman mentioned. “The CDC has suggested to not do it, particularly throughout COVID-19.”

Because the Metropolis prioritizes outreach over enforcement, Domer factors out that, whereas the Metropolis has partnered with adjoining cities to construct shelters and set up a protected parking program, “Fullerton has no direct funding supply for homeless prevention or response.”

“We face severe fiscal points and with the failure of the gross sales tax measure now we have no obtainable funding for homeless measures,” Domer mentioned. “Neither our Metropolis, nor any metropolis in Orange County, has funding for psychological well being and substance abuse assist. That is clearly the purview of the County and State and each must step up and supply services.”

Roussan Joshua Collins, with the group Homeless Advocates for Christ, helped transport homeless folks to native shelters in the course of the latest outreach. He mentioned that based mostly on conversations he has had with native homeless folks, there’s generally a discrepancy between how Fullerton cops behave in entrance of Choose Carter and Legal professional Weitzman, and when they’re interacting with the homeless alone.

Transporting a disabled homeless individual’s wheel chair to a shelter. Picture by Roussan Joshua Collins.

“Earlier than our eyes, the police will be completely different than once we’re not there,” Roussan mentioned. He shared a video with the Observer of three homeless folks in Fullerton describing harassment by the hands of a FPD officer.

Collins added that, for some native homeless, the restrictions imposed by shelters make them inaccessible to some folks.

“It will be nice if there have been walk-up shelters so the homeless don’t should undergo this cumbersome course of the place they name CityNet,” Collins mentioned. “Supposedly, they get again to you inside three days however many homeless folks don’t actually have a telephone. So how are they going to get again to the homeless individual to permit them to get in?”

One motive for such restrictions on shelters is concessions to neighboring residents and companies who don’t need the “blight” of a shelter subsequent to their property, or lengthy strains of homeless folks ready to get in. Fullerton’s navigation heart is by referral solely. No walk-ups.

“There’s all this pushback from completely different components of the neighborhood that simply don’t need [the shelters] anyplace, and that makes it more durable to create that for folks,” Collins mentioned. “And in the end, shelter shouldn’t be the reply. Folks must get moved from the shelter into someplace they’ve extra privateness and safety—like everlasting supportive housing. However that’s not constructed.”

A couple of yr in the past, Fullerton nearly accredited a big everlasting supportive housing improvement at 1600 W. Commonwealth, however there was such pushback from the neighbors that the group that was going to construct it, Pathways of Hope, in the end pulled out.

Govt Director of Pathways of Hope David Gillanders mentioned,  “As winter approaches, we’re at all times involved about our unhoused neighbors and neighborhood members residing outdoors and never having a protected place to be at evening. Additionally, we’re involved how they’re or aren’t being placed on a path to everlasting, homelessness-ending housing.”

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