SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Police Department has launched a new highly-trained unit dedicated specifically to homeless issues with solutions that come from a different kind of playbook.
It's a story you'll see only on ABC7 News.
Police get about a thousand homeless problems at Mission Station in San Francisco a month. Chief Scott's vision is to have a dedicated team of officers who can help connect these homeless people to city services.
"You got a place where you can do your laundry, shower if you need it," asked Officer Jared Harris. He responded to a complaint that a homeless camp was blocking the sidewalk on Folsom and 18th Street.
He and his partner, Officer Yasar Shah, convinced them to clear the sidewalk. Then they offered the tent dwellers help in getting city services.
This new 10-officer unit's sole purpose is to concentrate on issues involving the homeless, to use more outreach than enforcement.
Commander David Lazar heads the unit. "Get someone to help, get them into housing, get them treatment. That is way more successful than enforcement. Enforcement is still a tool but that's not the priority," he said.
The unit will work collaboratively with city agencies, foremost the Department of Homelessness, which welcomes their partnership.
"They have all been trained in responding to critical incidents, in working with people suffering from perhaps mental illness and perhaps other challenges," SF Department of Homelessness spokesperson Jeff Kositsky said.
They have all been trained in responding to critical incidents in working with people suffering from perhaps mental illness and perhaps other challenges.
At this encampment, the officers talk to Desiree. She's been on the streets for months. They'll get social workers to visit her on Thursday, and she's appreciative.
"I thought it was very good. They approached me politely. Very, very nice," Desiree said.
It is a small but significant victory for the unit. A victory they can build on.