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Please join us for our February 5 webinar, Decriminalizing Homelessness: Starting the Conversation,” for more information about building partnerships to better serve individuals experiencing homelessness in your community.

Campaigns like the national Housing Not Handcuffs highlight the ways that the basic existence of homelessness is being criminalized with arrests for publicly camping, loitering, and panhandling. This trend not only uses up criminal justice resources, but perpetuates the cycle of poverty that contributes to homelessness.

As people on the front lines interacting with individuals experiencing homelessness, police officers play a key role in breaking this cycle. An important way for local community agencies to fight for the decriminalization of homelessness is to start conversations with your local police about how they engage with this vulnerable population. These conversations can be the groundwork for connection to community resources rather than arrests, and could result in meaningful costs savings. In some places, cost saving studies have found criminalization alternatives could save taxpayers up to $149 million through reduced law enforcement resources and medical costs.

Michigan communities are already embracing several models for building partnerships between the police and homeless service providers, including street outreach teams, crisis intervention teams, and jail diversion programs. Having police involvement with these processes means that individuals experiencing homelessness on the street are redirected to the actual resources they need rather than receiving costly fees or jail time. Street outreach teams can help the police better understand the homeless experience on a day-to-day basis. Crisis intervention teams bring together mental health professionals and local community homeless agencies to educate law enforcement on how to connect homeless folks to the right community resources they need, and jail diversion programs help provide alternatives to the criminal justice system.

These models aren’t a one-size-fits-all for your community. The first few steps to building a partnership involve knowing the mental health resources in your community and starting a conversation with your local police. Knowing the mental health resources in your community means understanding their capacity for providing services. Once you know that, you can then start bridging the gap between their services and the police. Sometimes all it takes is starting a conversation about knowledge of resources that your local police may have never known about.

On Tuesday, February 5, MCAH will be hosting the webinar, “Decriminalizing Homelessness: Starting the Conversation.” Champions from Oakland County and Traverse City will speak about how they’ve built real partnerships between community agencies and law enforcement. This webinar will bring together local innovators of processes like crisis intervention teams and street outreach teams. Attendees will get some tips on how to start having conversations with the police and learn about the benefits of building this kind of partnership.

Please join us to hear from:

  • Oakland County Jail Diversion Coordinator with Oakland Community Health Network, Dan Holloway
  • Executive Director of HOPE, Inc. Elizabeth Kelly
  • Street Outreach Coordinator of Goodwill Industries of North Michigan, Ryan Hannon
  • Homeless Liaison Officer with the Traverse City Police Department, Captain Keith Gillis

Register online at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2285179184057155842

By Gaby Abalo, MCAH Public Policy Intern. You can contact her at: gabalo@mihomeless.org. Additional questions or concerns can be directed to Laurel Burchfield // lburchfield@mihomeless.org.