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Public Safety

The City of Arcadia expends a substantial amount of time and public safety resources responding to and assisting individuals experiencing homelessness. The Arcadia Police Department (APD), Arcadia Fire Department (AFD), and the Public Works Services Department (PWSD) have been tracking homeless-related calls for service for about one year.

The homeless-related calls for service data shown below demonstrate what a vital role public safety services play in responding to individuals experiencing homelessness. With the number of individuals experiencing homelessness rising in Arcadia, the City projects that calls for service and costs will also increase. As the City navigates the current homeless problem together with all stakeholders, including residents and business owners, the City will continue to meet the service needs of the community and work toward preserving the exceptional quality of life in Arcadia. 

In total, calls for service involving individuals experiencing homelessness have cost the City approximately $567,970 over the past year. The majority of these costs (75%) are Fire Department costs for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) with transport being the most significant cost driver. The majority of the costs ($540,923 or 95%) are supported by the City’s General Fund with the balance of $27,047 or 5% for Homeless Resource Hub Fire Paramedic assistance and PWSD homeless-related services which are supported by the Homeless Plan Implementation Grant. Although the City is financially responsible for advancing payment for these costs, funds are reimbursed to the City on a quarterly basis.

PS Department Total

Police Calls for Service

Fire Department Calls for Service

Public Works Services Department Calls for Service

Homeless Engagement and Liaison Program (HELP) Team

In 2016, the Arcadia Police Department observed an increase in individuals experiencing homelessness in Arcadia, and responded by establishing the Homeless Engagement and Liaison Program (HELP), also known as the HELP Team. The Mission of the HELP Team is to, “Improve the quality of life in the City of Arcadia by reaching out to the homeless community and providing information, resources, and motivation with the ultimate goal of finding an alternative to life on the streets.” The current HELP Team is managed by one Lieutenant and one Sergeant who oversee the Team’s daily activities. The Team is comprised of six Police Officers who work together to:

  • Provide assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness in Arcadia. Assistance can range from providing literature regarding local homeless shelters and resource programs, helping connect people with family members, making direct contact with LA County resources such as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, mental health clinicians, and other social services, and provide basic needs in situations involving emergent circumstances (such as a dire need for housing, food, and or clothing).
  • Track individuals experiencing homelessness in Arcadia.
  • Coordinate with all Arcadia and LA County resources to resolve any matters related to homelessness.
  • Provide education to individuals experiencing homelessness and businesses/residents in relation to available resources, and any crimes/violations associated with homeless activities and encampments.
  • Follow-up on tips, complaints, or any information communicated to the Arcadia Police Department that is related to homelessness.

The HELP Team developed an Information Card that is given to individuals experiencing homelessness. One side lists available resources and phone numbers, while the other side educates the homeless on Arcadia laws for public places. On average, Officers working a HELP detail contact 10-15 homeless individuals during an approximate 8-hour shift.  Currently, the HELP Team is working on developing methods for tracking their activities and interactions with the homeless community.

Help Team Photo 1
Help Team Photo 2                                                          

When the HELP Team approaches an individual experiencing homelessness, the primary goal is to get the individual connected to programs and services that will help the person get into housing. The HELP Team works with Union Station and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to assist with providing housing alternatives and resources to those individuals.

Typically, a police officer will obtain contact information for the individual and then offer to connect the person with resources or make a referral to Union Station or LAHSA. If the individual accepts the assistance, then a referral is generated with those resources. The officer makes every attempt to make contact with a case manager during normal business hours so the case manager can continue the next step in the process. If the individual declines assistance, they are still provided information about other resources available to them.

Currently, the Arcadia Homeless Resource Hub is the only location in the City that offers individuals the opportunity to shower, charge their electronic devices, wash their clothes, and nutrition, among other services.  

LA Times Article on Reasons for Fewer Shelter Beds
KTLA5 Article on Homelessness Crisis
What Keeps Homeless Individuals Out of Shelters
Myths Related to Homelessness 
Department of Social Services Information on Project RoomKey 

Myths v. Facts on Homelessness

All homeless are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and/or are mentally ill.

Although police officers come into contact with individuals experiencing homelessness who are either under the influence at the time of contact, are known to have a drug problem, or suffer from mental illness, or a combination of all three, not all individuals experiencing homelessness individuals fit these criteria. There are individuals who do not have these issues and are homeless as a result of other factors.  

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, only 30% of people experiencing homelessness claim to suffer from mental illness, and only 23% report substance abuse issues. Since there is some crossover there (people can answer yes to both questions), it’s fair to assume that a majority of people experiencing homelessness are neither mentally ill nor drug addicts. 

If the homeless had housing, there would be no homeless on the street.
Although housing is a key component to battling homelessness, police officers hear from individuals experiencing homelessness that they would rather remain on the street than have to adhere to the rules and regulations associated with housing options available. Specifically, homeless individuals have stated to officers that they are against curfews and anti-alcohol/drug policies.

Only certain types of people are homeless.
One thing is for sure, homelessness does not discriminate. People from all walks of life can become homeless. It has no regard for age, race, or gender. Various and complex life situations and circumstances have led individuals to experience homelessness.

Additional Resources

Substance Abuse and Homelessness by the National Coalition for the Homeless
The Connection Between Homelessness and Addiction
Myths and Facts Related to the Homeless by the Coalition for the Homeless
Homelessness and How It Can Happen
Homelessness Does Not Discriminate 
Homelessness and Coronavirus Unemployment by the LA Times 

Published: July 27, 2021