Patrol Task Force Offers Insight on Homeless

Interacting, engaging and working to find solutions

By Lori Denman-Underhill

In order to help a person, the one who is aiming to assist should literally, dive deep into their world and investigate their environment.

The homeless issue of Ventura includes aspects that are evident from an outside perspective. However, many people in the community engage themselves one-on-one, in an effort to learn the problems and work towards finding solutions. One such group is the Police Task Force.

Patrol Task Force. Jerry Foreman, second from left.

Police Sergeant Jerry Foreman leads the Patrol Task Force (PTF) in Ventura County. The task force, includes a sergeant, a corporal and three officers. The PTF was created by Ventura’s Safe and Clean Initiative, which was adopted by Ventura City Council in 2011 and staffed in 2012. The task force tackles the vagrancy issues in the city and aims to keep the city safe and clean.

Foreman explained the force to Citizens Journal. “The Patrol Task Force combines police resources with city maintenance resources, so Public Works and Parks. And then partnered them with social service organizations. So there is Salvation Army and Project Understanding.”

At first, the PTF started their focus on six areas including the Promenade, South Seaward Avenue, Mini Park, Plaza Park, Mission Park, Mission Plaza. The areas of focus have since expanded throughout the entire city, as the homeless migrate away from the force.

The PTF interacts and engages with the homeless community to get them into helpful services. They call it a “Symptoms Based Enforcement.”

Components of the Task Force

There are many components and “moving parts,” as Foreman explained. While there are a number of police members, the social service department, that includes Salvation Army and Project Understanding, is the “work department.” Another main component of the PTF is the Community Intervention Court. “It is our own special court, exclusive to the city of Ventura,” he added.

The day before the weekly court date, PTF gathers with a coalition including the Public Defender’s office, City Attorney’s office, the police department, all social service organizations, a representative from the local fire department and Ventura County Behavioral Health (mental issues).

“During this weekly meeting, it is a true collaboration effort,” Foreman said. “We discuss the individuals who are will be in court the next day and a game plan that will help them succeed. So if someone is an alcoholic and drug addict with mental health issues, we discuss how to help them out of that situation, which in turn helps solve the problem of them being an issue to the community.”

The PTF also has the Safe Sleep Ventura program, in which they work with Salvation Army that manages it, Foreman said. The groups assist those who are living out of their cars or RVs to relocate back into housing. These homeless persons who are registered with the Salvation Army program are provided with a parking place. They aim to address their issue while they are still in their vehicle, since it has been shown to the PTF that they have a higher chance of working towards and attaining housing.

“We have a pretty significant problem of people living in their cars and RVs on the streets,” Foreman said. “So this is a significant program that is needed. I’ve heard that the city may expand this program. We only have 15 spots and there is a waiting list.”

There is also the Family Reconnection Program led by Downtown Ventura Partners, that receives private funding. When a person determines to become clean and sober and receive mental health treatment and is not from Ventura, the PTF’s philosophy is that they have a higher chance for success when they are “around a support group of family or friends.” If this homeless person then wants to reunite with that person who is in their hometown, Downtown Ventura Partner pays for their transportation to connect with their family. There has been about 145 homeless individuals reconnected through this program in the past few years.

Challenges

Many challenges attribute to the ongoing homeless issue. Lack of housing and programs top the list, Foreman said.

One, more resources and funding. As an example, PTF’s Salvation Army and Project Understanding could use more funding, in order to hire more positions to join on PTF.

Then there is the, “service-resistant homeless,” Foreman added. “When we first started with a staff about six years ago, we were helping people who really wanted to help themselves. This occurred for about two years. They wanted the programs, they wanted to not be homeless anymore and find a place to live. It was pretty easy to deal with them. Now what is left is the people that we have been dealing with forever. They are service-resistant.”

Foreman said, “We have been engaging them for years and they keep turning down resources we have been throwing at them. We are going to keep trying and enforce all the laws we can on them in the Community Intervention Court, in order to get court mandated treatment and programs for them.”

Solutions

During their weekly coalition meetings, the PTF and others also discuss homeless individuals that want to get clean, off of drugs or alcohol. Foreman said the difficult problem for the homeless person is to “be clean and sober for an amount of time, prior to being allowed to stay at the shelter and be eligible for certain programs.” Foreman said it is called a high barrier program.

Foreman said with concern, “How is a person trying to get sober do it on their own, on the streets, before they get into a program? When, it would be the program that would help them do that. We need to resist some barriers, in order to get to help them at their lowest level. Or else, you are offering services to only those who want help.”

“If we had lower barrier programs for some people, we would have been able to get them into a program a lot sooner,” Foreman said. “If a homeless person needs to pass a physical exam to get services, you are never going to get a person who is addicted to heroin or meth to pass. You need to get them into a program that is willing to detox them, and then address the problem. It’s called a low barrier program.”

Foreman added in closing, “If you are asking someone to do it all on their own, what do you need the program for, right?”

Lori Denman-Underhill has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, Surfline.com and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.


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2 Responses to Patrol Task Force Offers Insight on Homeless

  1. William Hicks May 23, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    It is a complex issue. To be overly generous to all homeless can create a magnet effect to a community without consulting the affected community about how that can happen.

    There is a difference between being homeless and being a vagrant. One may have just fell on bad times while the other may be the person that breaks into houses, businesses and cars to feed their drug habit.

    Both need to be treated differently. No simplistic politically correct answers to this problem.

    Reply
  2. Marc Amon May 22, 2018 at 6:09 am

    Excellent article. Most people have no idea how much effort and engagement goes on from the police department and how many of our homeless are service-resistant by choice. There’s needs to be more community participation but also more community prosecution (city attorneys and city council) to match the community policing efforts. It is called the 3CP approach. Ventura PD is definitely leading the way.

    Reply

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