from San Diego to Humboldt

The Slippery Slope:
from San Diego to Humboldt
The homeless “Round–Up” programs instituted in San Diego may be emulated here in Humboldt County.

Strategies for Reducing Chronic Street Homelessness (January 2004, 384 P.)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

San Diego’s Police-Based Outreach Teams
San Diego city has two innovative outreach programs developed by and located in the San Diego Police Department—the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and the Serial Inebriate Program (SIP).
HOT combines a police officer, a mental health worker, and a benefits eligibility technician in outreach teams operating during the day and evening hours to engage mentally ill street people and connect them to services.
Because they combine police and mental health expertise and authority, they are the only outreach teams on the streets that have the ability to remove people either voluntarily or involuntarily, in addition to building rapport and making referrals.
SIP comes into play for chronic inebriates who do not voluntarily accept treatment. SIP is a collaboration of four city and five county agencies, including law enforcement, the city attorney’s office, the public defender, the Superior Court, health care, and homeless agencies working as a team in a court context. Mental Health System, Inc. is contracted to coordinate the program. SIP follows the Drug Court model in offering addicts a choice of jail or treatment, after assuring that the community was willing to pay for treatment if requested. SIP’s focus is on chronic alcoholics who populate the downtown streets of San Diego. Police officers arrest chronic street alcoholics for public drunkenness, and bring them to jail and subsequently to court. Once arraigned, caseworkers approach each person, conduct assessments, and offer treatment plus transitional housing as an alternative to six months in jail (the maximum allowed under California state law) to those who pass the assessment. Many people eventually accept the offer, although they may first serve a full jail sentence or even two before they are convinced to try.
The North Coast Journal Weekly (Arcata)
Judge Feeney, who presides in Humboldt County Superior Court, Courtoom 8, was born and raised in San Diego and says he has “been admiring their homeless court from afar for years.”
In September, he went down to San Diego to observe a homeless court. “I was impressed,” he says.
“Many homeless people have substance abuse issues and mental illness, and for those people it’s more complicated,” he says.
“…some infractions and misdemeanors might stem from the condition of being homeless, says Steve Binder, a deputy public defender in San Diego who co-founded the nation’s first homeless court, in San Diego County in 1989.
“They (“crimes” of the homeless) are the result of their being homeless. They might be ‘sleeping in public’ or ‘drinking in public’ or ‘peeing in public’ — things we do in the privacy of our homes, they do outside because they have no other options. Additionally, you’ll find petty thefts [of food], because people might be looking to survive. Or you’ll find people doing drugs, whether it is a way of self-medicating or just a way of surviving on the street. We’re not trying to condone that.”

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