California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 12

The H.E.A.R.T. of Santa Ana PD Based on a study conducted by National Alliance to End Homelessness in 2011, California is home to over 135,000 homeless men, women and children. The city of Santa Ana alone is home to over 600 of these individuals. Chief Rojas from the Santa Ana Police Department explains “since the early 1990’s the city of Santa Ana has battled an increasingly rising homeless population. We knew we had to do something to change not only the perception our officers had on the homeless, but also what the homeless thought of law enforcement.” S anta Ana’s Civic Center houses over 90 percent of their homeless population. In November of 2012, Santa Ana PD launched a new community outreach program entitled Homeless Evaluation/Assessment Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.). The H.E.A.R.T. program is a collaborative relationship between the Santa Ana PD and local non-profit organizations. The program focuses on providing sustainable solutions beyond the short-term solutions offered through the enforcement of laws and ordinances. Santa Ana PD recognizes that the criminalization of homeless individuals is not a solution to the city’s ever-growing homeless population. Realizing that while enforcement is still needed to maintain public safety, cleanliness and order in the Civic Center and surrounding areas where homelessness is prevalent, they searched for more long-term solutions and alternatives that prevent homeless individuals from having continuous contact with the police. 12 California Police Chief | www.californiapolicechiefs.org