Homeless Outreach Program
As part of the Community Relations Unit, the Cambridge Police Department has two officers assigned to the City’s Homeless Outreach Project.
This project was created in late 2007 and formed to address the issue of the chronic homeless population in Cambridge. This multi-disciplinary group, comprised of representatives from various service providers to the homeless, recognized the need to develop new strategies when interacting with this population. In addition, a goal was established to begin to identify pathways whereby the homeless can obtain housing and succeed in their new environment.
The Cambridge Police Department’s role in this project grew from a recognition that police are often the first to interact with these individuals. Representatives from the Multi-Service Center, C.A.S.P.A.R. and others groups understood that police officers who, when interacting with these groups, took the time to openly communicate with them are much more effective in establishing parameters for acceptable behavior than officers who showed no interest in their situation. Officers who take the time to know the individual are able to establish a rapport that often led to referral for much needed health care services and mutual understanding of desired outcomes.
Officers Eric Helberg and Matt Price demonstrated these attributes while interacting with the homeless over the past several years. It is for this reason that, effective in 2008, Officer Helberg and Price now have full-time assignments as the department's Homeless Outreach Officers.
The Homeless Outreach Officer’s duties include, but are not limited to:
- Identify locations throughout the City where the most chronically homeless congregate
- Open dialogue with individuals to determine if services are required.
- Insure that parameters of acceptable behavior are developed and understood
- Take appropriate action when individuals are incapacitated or when unacceptable or criminal behavior is observed. This action would include transportation to a facility or arrest (if necessary).
- Establish and maintain liaison with other service providers. Meet regularly with representatives from the Multi-Service Center, C.A.S.P.A.R., Cambridge Health Alliance, Home Start and others as needed.
- Establish and conduct training sessions, in collaboration with other service providers, for officers walking Harvard and Central Squares. The purpose of this training will be to enhance the officers’ ability to effectively reduce the problem caused by this group by identifying their needs.
- While the Homeless Outreach Officer may often initiate an interaction and will often respond to a call for service for an intoxicated individual, the primary responsibility for responding to a call for service of this nature rests with the appropriate Patrol personnel. Emergency Communication Department dispatchers will be instructed to dispatch these calls accordingly and the Homeless Outreach Officer can then respond based on availability. The goal is to have fewer of these calls for service to the proactive nature of this position.
It is the goal of this project to reduce the impact of nuisance behavior in the areas where these groups frequent. While increasing the quality of life for the residents of these areas it is hoped that the volume of calls for service of this nature will correspondingly be reduced, thereby enabling other Operations personnel to focus their attention on other matters of importance.
Learn more about our Homeless Outreach efforts and the work of our officers in The Boston Globe and WGBH.
To contact Officers Helberg or Price, or for more information on our Homeless Outreach Program, please call our Community Relations Unit at 617-349-3236.
Hours of Service
Cambridge Police Department
Acting Police Commissioner
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