GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids is taking action as the number of people experiencing homelessness downtown rises, creating a new partnership aimed at helping them.
The Grand Rapids Police Department will soon be working with mental health and behavioral health professionals to respond to calls involving people who are homeless. Currently, officers who respond do not have mental health training.
While many specifics are still being worked out, the city says the new teams will respond to calls about disorderly intoxication, drug overdoses, public urination and mental health crises. That should free up other officers to respond to other types of calls.
Officer Jenny Rood, who already works with homeless outreach for GRPD, says the reason for the increase in the homeless population is a decline in resources. The pandemic shuttered places where people without homes normally spend their time, like the library. Resources that remain open, like the shelters, are running at a limited capacity.
“It’s affecting me a great deal because … because there aren’t enough beds there for us,” Thomas Davis, who says he has been sleeping on the street, told News 8.
Many places that provide showers and laundry are unavailable, making it hard to keep up hygiene.
“I know it’s offending some of the businesses around here but it’s not mostly our fault,” Davis said.
The partnership between police and mental health services is aimed at providing those lost resources to the homeless.
“I think having those resources available to the homeless will lessen the number of homeless in the area, because they are seeking help,” Rood said. “They are getting assistance with housing, they are getting guidance with mental help and counseling and things of that nature.”
The city says it will provide more details about the new partnership, including when it will begin, next month at the commission meeting.