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Phoenix police, shelter reach out to troubled homeless people

[Source: Lindsey Collom, Arizona Republic] — Cecilia didn’t look up. A man who was with her had slinked away into the darkness, leaving a broken crack pipe and Cecilia alone to answer police and social workers. She rummaged through a tote filled with papers and other clutter, ignoring the headlights that broke the night and illuminated her campsite of boxes and bags on a central Phoenix roadside.

Homeless-shelter operators, on a regular nighttime sweep of downtown, said they often found Cecilia sleeping on the streets, even though she had an apartment. “For a long time, we’re just kind of thinking she was lonely,” said Sean Bonnette, a shelter manager at Central Arizona Shelter Services, Arizona’s largest homeless shelter. “She’d just come out here and stash stuff. She wants to sit out here….It’s hard to teach someone to not be homeless.”

Service providers and Phoenix police have joined forces to attack chronic homelessness by reaching out to those who won’t ask for assistance. A team of Phoenix police and CASS specialists has been crisscrossing downtown Phoenix four nights a week to engage homeless people who have severed connections with service providers and are drowning in mental illness or substance abuse. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Group hits streets to help Phoenix homeless

[Source: Lindsey Collom, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix police and Central Arizona Shelter Services are hitting the streets to help the homeless get the social services they need.  A caravan of CASS specialists and Phoenix police crisscross the streets of downtown Phoenix four nights a week to seek out people without shelter and offer assistance, such as a place to stay or enrollment in a detox program.  Officials say the outreach effort, which is nearly two years old, has reached more than 1,800 homeless and helped reduce violent and property crimes in the area from Seventh to 19th avenues and Van Buren Street to Grand Avenue.

Ben Zachariah, supervisor for adult services for CASS, and Phoenix police Sgt. Sean Connelly developed the street team to address root causes of homelessness, including mental illness and substance addiction. Connelly said police in the CASS area used to “arrest our way to solutions.”  But the method was costly and largely ineffective: The city pays nearly $200 to book a suspect into Maricopa County jail on misdemeanor violations, and the suspect is typically released within hours.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]