The San Gabriel Police Department recognizes that effective policing requires an increasingly innovative approach to addressing the variety of issues that impact the quality of life of our community. Engaging with the homeless population has been especially difficult as we adapt to the changes brought on by COVID-19.
The Mental Health Evaluation Team (MET) within the San Gabriel Police Department has modified their mission to incorporate educational resources and the distribution of personal protective equipment during Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) deployments. They do so while providing comprehensive mental health screening and a variety of support services for San Gabriel residents.
As a reminder, the MET Team is a partnership between the San Gabriel Police Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. It is comprised of a specially trained police officer and a certified mental health clinician who work together to respond to active crisis situations, providing assistance with emergency hospitalization of individuals experiencing mental illness. The MET Team’s role is to protect the welfare of the patient and the public, and to provide support for families in crisis. This includes follow-up home visits, informal counseling, and emotional support. They also link families and individuals with developmental disabilities with support services.
The MET Team also coordinates our Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) deployments, serving as the local liaison of a multi-agency effort in the West San Gabriel Valley that provides proactive outreach several times per month. HOST activities are exclusively funded by Los Angeles County Measure H.
As Chief Eugene Harris notes, “conventional wisdom had agencies pulling back from HOST deployments for fear of COVID-19 exposure.” Harris continues, “We took a different approach, feeling that it was important to reach out to those affected members of our community that may find themselves homeless in the midst of this pandemic, and to also reach out to them with resources and educational material.”
These outreach deployments also commit time and resources to building relationships with community stakeholders to address sanitation concerns and public nuisance issues associated with homeless encampments, and to ensure that we are working cohesively with our partner agencies.