Starting in December, a new pilot program announced Tuesday will reroute nonviolent 911 calls related to the homeless in Los Angeles to be handled by a team of trained unarmed professionals instead of the police, the Associated Press reported.
The teams will consist of trained outreach workers and mental health clinicians. Beginning next month, they will be available at all times to respond to the diverted nonemergency calls from the 911 system and the police nonemergency line.
In 2020, Los Angeles had a homeless population of more than 54,000 compared to about 45,000 in 2018. Only 11,000 homeless people in 2020 were sheltered in safe havens, traditional housing or emergency shelters, according to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
“We are never going to arrest our way out of this crisis,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a press conference Tuesday morning. He said the LAPD currently receives nearly 140,000 calls relating to the homeless every year, Court House News reported.
Garcetti said the new pilot program would free up police officers and allow them to respond to crime-related calls and other investigations, Court House News reported.
The Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) team will consist of 48 people. The program is expected to last through June of 2022. It will cost the city $2.2 million, and the county $30 million, The Crime Report reported.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
The new initiative is being tested in Hollywood and Venice, where teams including outreach workers and mental health clinicians have been deployed part time in neighborhoods with a concentration of people experiencing homelessness and high volume of calls for service.
“The teams will continue to build a rapport with the unhoused community, conduct light sanitation work, de-escalate situations as they arise, and create referrals to local service providers,” said a statement announcing the program from Garcetti’s office.
CIRCLE is part of Garcetti’s sprawling plan to confront an out-of-control homeless problem. The mayor has proposed spending nearly $1 billion in the coming year to get people off the streets, build housing and clean up squalid encampments that have spread into nearly every neighborhood in the city.
City Council President Nury Martinez said Tuesday that the new program will unburden police from dealing with nonviolent situations where a clinician might be better suited.
“You couldn’t have a clearer example of this country lacking a robust social safety net than when people with guns show up to respond to a nonviolent, mental health crisis,” Martinez said.
Los Angeles will run the program along with Urban Alchemy, an L.A.-based nonprofit organization that facilitates the city’s mobile showers and restrooms and several of its interim housing facilities for homeless residents.
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