How a PD is working with a community-based coalition to address needs of homeless population
The group allows for community members to become involved and empowered in the problem-solving efforts
Reprinted with permission from Behind the Badge
By Jessica Peralta
Westminster faith-based groups and the Westminster Police Department’s Homeless Liaison team are working to do something that hasn’t been done before.
It’s called the homeless coalition. The community-based group is working to address the needs of and problem-solve for the local homeless population.
“It’s kind of a unique little thing,” Westminster Police Department Sgt. Bill Drinnin said. “There’s no city in the county that I can think of that has this kind of partnership. … The first place our homeless go when they need something is the churches.”
That is why the coalition is being spearheaded by local faith-based groups. Hope Community Church Pastor Aaron Bull is getting the ball rolling.
“The momentum is just starting,” Bull said. “Our city has been very inclusive in allowing people to be part of the solution.”
An earlier version of the homeless coalition was getting started early last year and was put on hold when the pandemic hit. Earlier this year, the group got a reboot and became more community-based.
Westminster Police Department Homeless Liaison Officer (HLO) Nicole Brown, who is part of the coalition along with HLO Roland Perez, said this newer version of the group allows for community members to become involved and empowered in the problem-solving efforts.
“For them to actually be able to do something about it, I think is good,” she said. “It’s a great platform.”
Brown said the homeless issue is a big one for residents and business owners, and they want to get involved. The coalition is “giving them a way to actually help,” she said.
“There’s a lot that we can’t do as a police department, but a faith-based church can do,” Brown said. “It’s good to hear from the community too, and from the citizens, and I think it really gives them a voice.”
She said the group is working to get the word out about the homeless coalition to others who may want to help.
“I think it’s really empowering for the community,” she said.
The coalition, which meets monthly at the Westminster Police Department, held its first event in late May. Laundry of Love brought together faith groups, police officers and locals in need for a morning of doing laundry at a local laundromat — for free.
“We do everybody’s laundry,” Bull said.
The homeless coalition gathered resources and received donations to put on the event — including a donation of a 55-gallon drum of laundry detergent. The group hopes to continue and grow this kind of grassroots outreach.
“The goal is not to find a way to give money to a shelter,” Drinnin said. “It’s more along the lines of reaching out to the homeless community.”
Bull said the benefit of involving the larger community is the pooling of resources. For example, he’s aware of a local church that has some portable showers — something that can really be of use for those in need.
“If we can gather the members of the city together, have showers for the homeless, let’s do it,” Bull said. “There’s a lot of resources that are untapped.”
He also recently spoke with someone from a nearby church about the possibility of offering tutoring for kids.
“It’s an action-based network,” Bull said.
So far, six churches and the Westminster Family Resource Center make up the homeless coalition in addition to the Westminster Police Department.
“I think our HLOs are doing great, they’ve been really smart in their approach to things,” Bull said. The idea behind the homeless coalition is for the larger community to help support the work of the police department, he added.
“I think their job can be easier when the community can come in and say, ‘No, we’re taking steps to help you,’” he said. “We need the community to step in.”