The Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.) Program focuses exclusively on homeless, individuals and families, and addresses the problem in its entirety through immediate needs and long-term effects.
Proactive policing and engagement
Homelessness is a complex and intricate issue faced by cities which requires civic collaboration with a variety of sources including faith based organizations, nonprofit agencies, volunteers and other stakeholders. Many of the individuals encountered suffer from a myriad of mental health issues, substance abuse and physical challenges.
While homelessness itself is not a crime, the needs of the residents and businesses must constantly be balanced with those of the homeless population including, yet not limited to, the use of public space.
The Santa Ana Police Department assists the homeless population in its attempt to shift towards a more desirable and improved life for all homeless people. A balanced approach of services, community support and compassionate enforcement are all needed to provide the public safety service level expected by all who live, visit and do business in the City of Santa Ana. The Police Department recognizes that the criminalization of homelessness is not a long-term solution to the pervasive issue. While enforcement is a necessary component to maintain public safety and public order, it needs to be coupled with alternatives that provide the homeless with options to prevent them from having continuous negative contacts with the police. In November 2012, the Police Department’s Civic Center Detail launched the Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.) to address homeless in the Civic Center area and throughout the city.
Police outreach and collaboration
The Santa Ana Police Department has created the Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.) to oversee citywide homeless outreach needs, safety and security as well as mental health conditions. All police personnel working in this detail have received over 16 hours of specifically designed mental health training (Crisis Intervention Training for Law Enforcement) for first responders.
The Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.) Program focuses exclusively on individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, and addresses the problem in its entirety by way of immediate needs and long-term effects on the homeless population.
In collaboration with public, private and nonprofit entities that aid the homeless, individuals and families who desire the opportunity to prevent or escape homelessness are provided viable options with an emphasis on self-sufficiency which will assist them in obtaining housing.
Coordinated entry and assessment
Coordinated Entry was designed to ensure assistance to chronically homeless individuals based on vulnerability and severity of needs and to reduce barriers to housing entry. The H.E.A.R.T. detail is an integral part as officers serve to provide outreach and engagement to individuals on the streets of Santa Ana by directing them to the appropriate agency, including emergency shelter, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing. Programs in the community dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness fill vacancies through referrals.
Maintaining continuity within the assigned personnel to Civic Center is essential in working with the homeless community to ensure a multi-faceted approach. The H.E.A.R.T. Program is an ancillary duty for Civic Center officers. As such, they balance between three critical responsibilities:
1. Assistance / Treatment / Placement: It is accomplished by working directly with stakeholders. The H.E.A.R.T. officers continuously work with Orange County Mental Health Outreach and Engagement Team, Orange County Public Health Nurse and Orange County Social Services Agency. A strong collaboration with non-profit shelters such as Illumination Foundation, Mercy House, Colette’s Children’s Home, Village of Hope, and Salvation Army has been the cornerstone to our success.
Family Reunification Program: The program assists homeless families and individuals in the City of Santa Ana to be reconnected and reunited with their family or friends throughout continental United States. Through private donations identified as the “Mary Muth” fund, officers work with homeless individuals to prevent separation from family or friends due to homelessness. Officers work closely with homeless and assist in placing them in contact with family or friends who are willing to take them in, anywhere within the United States.
2. Maintenance: It is achieved through the collaboration with City of Santa Ana Parks and Recreation, Public Works Agency, Orange County Operations and Maintenance, and landscaping contractors. By utilizing these entities, abandoned property is identified and removed from the Civic Center area. The property is retained at the City’s Corporate Yard for a period up to 90 days. Signs are posted at major entry points to the Civic Center identifying local ordinances regarding camping, storage of personal belongings, and how people may obtain their property.
3. Enforcement: Identifying problematic individuals within the Civic Center area that are engaged in criminal activity. These activities include narcotic sales, narcotics use, public disorder crimes, and quality of life issues. A tool proven valuable for identifying suspects engaged in illegal activity has been the surveillance camera system in Civic Center, which consist of 41cameras monitoring the Civic Center area.
Psychological Emergency Response Team (P.E.R.T.)
The Orange County Health Care Agency (O.C.H.C.A.) and Santa Ana Police Department created a combined mental health and law enforcement response team to assist individuals with mental health issues. The Civic Center area, over the last few years, has seen a significant increase of homeless individuals suffering from mental health conditions. To address the problem and provide those in need with critical services, collaboration between both agencies was established through the current Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.). As part of the agreement, O.C.H.C.A. and the Police Department established a Psychological Emergency Response Team (P.E.R.T.) to authorize a mental health clinician to be assigned to a Civic Center Officer, or Patrol Officer, with a minimum of twice a week and up to 40 hours a week. The P.E.R.T. team will identify individuals in Civic Center or in the City and facilitate a rapid response to effectively provide assistance to individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse problems. The Partnership will allow homeless individuals better access to behavioral health services through follow-up visits and/or contacts by the mental health clinician.