The Goodyear Police Departments’ Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) is combating homelessness in the Phoenix area by addressing homeless-related crime and providing contacts of resources and shelters to homeless individuals.
David Mitterbauer, an officer and member of the HOT, told KTAR News: “Our team was formulated to combat any kind of the criminal elements of homelessness as well as (be) an outreach team to help those experiencing homelessness get in contact with resources and shelters.”
According to the Goodyear city’s website, the HOT’s purpose is to establish programs that assist the homeless population, educate officers on the rights and needs of homeless, protect and provide for homeless, and help educate the community that homelessness is not a crime, although officers do respond to trespassing on private property.
The team, created in 2018 by the city council after an influx of homeless residents in the area, provides resources to homeless individuals, assists with housing programs, and polices homeless communities to mitigate crime.
Currently, the team consists of an officer and a sergeant.
“I try to find out if they are in need of any immediate services, any emergency services,” Mitterbauer said.
HOT officers are also trained in crisis intervention and mental health situations, offering individuals transport to mental health facilities.
“That’s a big role because there’s a large amount of issues involving mental illness that cross over into the homeless aspect,” Mitterbauer said. “We have a lot of people that we come in contact with say they want help going to rehab for either drug use or alcohol abuse.
“If somebody is having some mental issues, we can either take them voluntarily to a local mental health facility or we can write a petition for them to be seen at that mental health facility,” the officer added.
Mitterbauer said the team also cooperates with the Phoenix Rescue Mission and Angels on Patrol – organizations that help homeless individuals.
He said the police act as a mediator between the homeless and social welfare resources.
“As a police department, we don’t have immediate access to the resources,” he said. “We basically put people in connection with those that can get them the resources.”