As winter sets in, homeless shelters in Milwaukee are filling up, and people could be left out in the cold. Until three years ago, many homeless people faced getting tickets from police officers, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Now those same individuals are interacting with specially trained officers who guide them to resources. The six officers on the department’s Homeless Outreach Team, a part-time assignment added to regular duties, work downtown now, but the team will expand next year, with 30 additional officers receiving training in January and taking the concept citywide.
Outreach officers carry basic supplies, such as socks, and build relationships with homeless people and the agencies that serve them, said Lt. Karen Dubis, who created the team with Capt. Stephen Basting in 2010. Nearly all of the homeless team officers have crisis intervention training, a 40-hour course that teaches officers to recognize signs of mental illness and to interact with those individuals. New team members will be mentored by veterans of the program. Dubis brought back new ideas from a national Problem-Oriented Policing Conference to address the city’s homeless population.