Laguna Beach, Ca., has assigned police officer Jason Farris to reach out to the homeless, says the Los Angeles Times. The 3-month-old position is part of a wide-ranging effort by the city to end the panhandling, public urination, and camping that have drawn complaints from residents and merchants alike. Farris is no ordinary cop: He strolls the streets and sand, greeting by name people who sleep under the boardwalk or beneath bushes and talking rather than shooing them away. “You can’t force them into getting off the street,” Farris said. “It’s not a crime for them to be homeless.” He aims to build trust with the city’s down and out, coaxing them to seek help.
The city tries to discourage giving change to beggars and is installing five labeled parking meters that would collect money for local homeless services, modeled after a program in Denver. Officials consider their strategy toward the homeless, with the emphasis on outreach, a novel one. “It is not just an enforcement-based approach. It is really more of a balanced approach,” said Assistant City Manager John Pietig. “We feel like that reflects the character of the community.”