CARLSBAD — Relationships are the foundation for the Carlsbad Homeless Outreach Team.
The team consists of Sgt. Bryan Hargett and Carlsbad police officers Ron DeMent and Andre Ramirez along with Marie Jones-Kirk, the city’s community services manager.
Their mission is to provide resources and a pathway for homeless individuals to find housing and connect to other service providers such as Interfaith Community Services, the Community Resource Center, the McAllister Institute or Solutions for Change, where those entities can assist with addiction recovery or finding employment.
However, there is no overnight solution to end the battle against homelessness. It’s a long game, and Hargett and Jones-Kirk, along with numerous other city staff, developed the Homeless Response Plan, which is geared to getting people off the streets.
“It takes time,” Hargett said. “It takes two people. That person has to want to get help. Us being able to explain to people to what we’re doing is huge.”
As of April 2017, Carlsbad had 160 homeless people, up from 108 in 2016, according to the Point-In-Time Count from the county’s Regional Task Force. But, the city’s plan is making headway as numerous people have now found housing.
The issue just isn’t a city one, Jones-Kirk said. Schools, business, residents all must take a new approach to the issue, which is why the city created its plan.
The Homeless Response Plan creates a foundation for all entities or stakeholders to follow. And while Hargett and his team focus on building trust, he said enforcement, such as jail or being arrested, in some cases, is the breaking point for some homeless individuals and leads to the realization they need help.
“If you follow the rules, we’re going to help you,” he said. “If you don’t follow the rules, we’re going to arrest you, then help you.”
Jones-Kirk said another goal is to remove barriers such as obtaining an identification or criminal history. Carlsbad’s team also praised the Oceanside Homeless Outreach Team, the county and many others for assisting Carlsbad with its plan and contacts to assist the homeless.
In one way, Jones-Kirk and the supporting resources perform an audit of a homeless individual’s life, from financial to medical aspects. She recalled a woman last year who was living in her car and wanted to be in housing before Christmas.
“We’re not eating this whole apple at one time, let’s start here,” Jones-Kirk said. “I think the expectation is that what works for you is the exact same thing we’re going to do (with everyone). It has to be personalized. We have to meet them where they’re at, not where we want them to be.”
She said it’s about setting realistic expectations because so many homeless people have been promised or led to expect specific things, which never come through.
Hargett said following up with those who have broken the cycle is also a critical component. He said gathering as much information from those people is just as valuable.
“They say, ‘just be consistent with them,’” Hargett said. “That’s what we want to be, is a consistent team. I’m not talking just at PD, but the whole city.”