APD is teaming up with Austin-Travis County EMS, Downtown Austin Alliance and Austin Travis County Integral Care to kick off a community outreach program designed to get homeless individuals off the streets.
"The majority of the homeless in our community are in their 40s and 50s, however, we are seeing an influx in the younger population as well,” said Darilynn Cardona-Beiler, assistant director of ATCIC.
There will be two full-time teams made up of two officers, two counselors and a paramedic. The teams will make rounds throughout the city offering resources to proper housing, employment and access to mental health care.
“Offer them a service, they need a prescription, go get a prescription filled for them instead of sending them to an emergency room on an ambulance,” said APD Cmdr. Pat Cochran.
Sixty percent who are chronically homeless experience substance abuse or have a mental health condition. Other individuals lack citizenship or have a criminal record, making it difficult to land a job.
KVUE’s Nicole Rosales spoke to a man named Jesus, who has been living on the streets of downtown Austin since he was released from prison two years ago. Jesus hasn't been able to find steady work, but has set goals for his future.
"I wanna start my own business, putting solar panels on storage units and I want to go to school,” Jesus said.
The group hopes by taking action now, they can help keep people like Jesus on the right track.
"Instead of arresting them because they have an alcohol problem, maybe we can get them into an alcohol treatment center,” Cochran said.
APD had roughly 470 arrests in January, and 15 percent were homeless individuals. Police said by addressing the root of the problem, they can not only help those in need but free up their services to others.
"And ultimately the most important piece for the team is to develop that human relationship with the individual,” Cardona-Beiler said. “They feel value, they decide, 'Yes, I am ready to take the next step.'”
"I think that's what people need they need confidence,” Jesus said.
The program is set to launch June 1.