Anyone that lives in the city of Houston probably has stories of encountering the homeless. We see them at traffic stops, under freeway bridges, and at various points around town. Sometimes the issue of homelessness can seem like an insurmountable problem for a major urban area.
But Houston, under the leadership of Mayor Annise Parker and Police Chief Charles McClelland, is making great strides to tackle the needs of the city’s most at-risk population. The new film Shepherds in Blue talks about the innovative methods being deployed by the Houston Police Department, and also highlights that they are having success. Through partnerships with city and county mental health organizations, HPD is working to show people that they do have a way out from homelessness.
“Traditionally police departments have been reactive… The goal of the Homeless Outreach Team is to reduce the number of police complaints by reducing the number of people on the streets.” says Sergeant Stephen Wick in the film. Instead of “short-term fixes” like writing tickets to homeless persons or throwing them in jail, HPD is making an effort to target the root causes of homelessness.
This new level of proactive community policing is beginning to yield real results for the city, and for the people whose lives are changed when they are given the opportunity for a better life.
Watch Shepherds in Blue below, and you can visit the Houston Police Department Mental Health Division for more information on their work.