How SGPD engages with our homeless community

The San Gabriel Police Department recognizes that effective policing requires an increasingly innovative approach to addressing the variety of issues that impact the quality of life of our community. Engaging with the homeless population has been especially difficult as we adapt to the changes brought on by COVID-19.

The Mental Health Evaluation Team (MET) within the San Gabriel Police Department has modified their mission to incorporate educational resources and the distribution of personal protective equipment during Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) deployments. They do so while providing comprehensive mental health screening and a variety of support services for San Gabriel residents.

As a reminder, the MET Team is a partnership between the San Gabriel Police Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. It is comprised of a specially trained police officer and a certified mental health clinician who work together to respond to active crisis situations, providing assistance with emergency hospitalization of individuals experiencing mental illness. The MET Team’s role is to protect the welfare of the patient and the public, and to provide support for families in crisis. This includes follow-up home visits, informal counseling, and emotional support. They also link families and individuals with developmental disabilities with support services.

A member of the SGPD and a mental health clinician

The MET Team also coordinates our Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) deployments, serving as the local liaison of a multi-agency effort in the West San Gabriel Valley that provides proactive outreach several times per month. HOST activities are exclusively funded by Los Angeles County Measure H.

As Chief Eugene Harris notes, “conventional wisdom had agencies pulling back from HOST deployments for fear of COVID-19 exposure.” Harris continues, “We took a different approach, feeling that it was important to reach out to those affected members of our community that may find themselves homeless in the midst of this pandemic, and to also reach out to them with resources and educational material.”

These outreach deployments also commit time and resources to building relationships with community stakeholders to address sanitation concerns and public nuisance issues associated with homeless encampments, and to ensure that we are working cohesively with our partner agencies.

During HOST deployments, officers assist the homeless community with finding food, showers, medical services and shelter. No enforcement action is taken during outreach activities. “We are distributing PPE [personal protective equipment] to those in need who are at higher risk of exposure,” notes MET Officer Shamir Gonzalez. “This is just one way that SGPD has created programs without additional funding that bridge the gap for marginalized members of our community.”

With their expertise, the MET Team also provides in-house training to our officers regarding de-escalation strategies, awareness and identification of mental health crisis, and how to identify, interact with, and support persons with developmental disabilities.

For more information regarding SGPD’s Mental Health Evaluation Team and other services, contact 626.451.5452 or email info@sgpd.com.