Ask ELi: When Does ELPD Intervene in Matters Involving Homeless Persons?

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020, 8:00 am
Mark Meyer

(Photo by Raymond Holt)

East Lansing Info (ELi) runs a service called Ask ELi to Investigate. A reader recently wrote in this question:

“My friend’s daughter lives in an East Lansing apartment complex and there was a person sleeping in the hallway [presumed homeless] who was making the residents feel uncomfortable. A neighbor called the non-emergency number to have a police officer come out but no one did. The caller was told the city doesn’t want the police to remove people who are sleeping in locked apartment buildings. I can’t find anything online and figured you could help?”

According to Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez, the East Lansing Police Department began working in 2019 with Housing Services Mid-Michigan and Advent House on a federal program known as Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH).

According to the program literature, PATH “is framed around face to face interactions with people living on the streets, vehicles, camps, or in other non-traditional settings unfit for human habitation to engage and connect them to services.”

“When ELPD receives a call that meets the circumstances of this program,” Gonzalez wrote in an email response, “we will notify the PATH team of the location and allow them to connect the person in an effort to help them get services that can be beneficial to their situation. If a public safety or medical concern is present, ELPD will immediately send an officer to ensure community safety or render aid to the individual as appropriate.”

“Those circumstances should be evaluated by the dispatcher in order to make the correct call routing,” Gonzalez added. “A patrol supervisor may also be consulted to help determine the correct response. We will always err on the side of caution and send an officer when the details of a given situation/call are unclear.”

Gonzalez stated that ELPD voluntarily participates with this program in hopes of bringing helpful services to homeless persons in our community.

“We would also stress that community members can always request immediate police response to such a situation if they have safety concerns,” he wrote. “Officers can evaluate the situation once on scene and contact the PATH program if appropriate.”

If you have a safety concern, including one involving a person who may be homeless, always state plainly that you have an active safety concern when calling the police. That includes when you have a specific concern about the safety of the other person. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info