On any given day, people can see homeless men and women walking the streets of downtown Kansas City, KS. Many times they are simply socializing with friends, but other times officers are forced to make an arrest for several reasons.
"Where they might see a car that's unlocked and so they reach inside to grab some change that's inside the car. So what we get is crimes of opportunity or crimes of nuisance, which is vagrancy, loitering, begging and those sort of crimes that we end up dealing with," said Cpt. Douglas Parisi.
Parisi is just one of the officers in the KCK Police Department that is looking into a new program that's working in other cities like Colorado Springs and in Wichita, called HOT, which stands for Homeless Outreach Team.
Instead of slapping cuffs on a homeless person, the HOT officers will work with community agencies to help the homeless get back on their feet.
"We need to reach out to them and not criminalize the homeless. Just understand they are somebody that needs help, and the community needs to reach out to them for help," Parisi said.
"I love that it's law enforcement partnered with social service organizations to help as a community address this chronic systemic issue," said Julie Solomon with Wyandot Inc.
Solomon said her organization can help the homeless with job training, counseling for alcohol and substance abuse and housing.
Right now the cost to house an inmate in the Wyandotte County Jail is $92 per day and the county spends $30,000 a month in tax dollars on medications for their inmates.
Supporters of the HOT program said the tax dollars can be saved by working together to solve the complex issue, and more jail time for the homeless is not the answer.
"The goal is to be able to keep people who are safe in the community through community-based treatment programs and not enter the jail or criminal justice system at all," Solomon said.
"Whenever you talk to a homeless outreach team member you always hear this, in Colorado Springs or Wichita or across the country, you can't arrest your way out of the problem," Parisi said.
Next month, HOT officers from Colorado Springs will be in Kansas City to conduct a two-day training program. Kansas City, MO, police are also looking at the approach for their city too.
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