Program changing way Austin police handle homeless population

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city is starting a new approach to help address the growing homeless population.

This issue has been highlighted by the rising number of calls Austin police respond to involving homeless people. The city says it has to divert a lot of public safety resources.

On Wednesday crews made up of police, mental health professionals, paramedics, and other community groups plan to canvas the downtown and West Campus area.

“They’ll go where the people are at. Instead of waiting for the homeless individual who comes to town and has no idea what they are doing this is a safe place to get services to start getting coordinated,” said APD Commander Patrick Cochran.

The mission behind this pilot program is to change traditional policing methods; moving beyond citations and into action that has a meaningful impact. Other goals include finding out why people become homeless, identifying gaps in services, and finding solutions.

“For instance if they need a prescription filled we can get that done for them, we can transport them to a clinic,” said Cochran.

The city has been looking to implement this program for almost a year. There has been an urgent call from the community to address this issue following the death of UT freshman Haruka Weiser. Her body was found on campus in April. Meechaiel Criner, a homeless teenager, is now facing murder charges.

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