Central Point, Ore. –NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it. In week 18, we’re diving into how one local department is working to tackle the issue as a whole.
Chief Kris Allison has been with the Central Point Police Department for 19 years. To her, it’s time and hard work well spent.
“We’ve really been able to keep Central Point a safe community, but also address the needs of people who need us,” Allison said.
While she doesn’t patrol the streets as much as she’d like anymore, Chief Allison has noticed a change in a certain group of people — the city’s homeless population.
“It appears that we have more homeless than what we had seen in the area,” Allison said.
Homelessness is a rapidly growing problem everywhere, and police departments across the country are typically tasked to help.
“We just have a real difficult time being able to get people the help that they really need,” Chief Allison said. “At the end of the day, law enforcement is the first access to the resources.”
With that in mind, Chief Allison is leading her department with a hands-on approach.
“We’re first making sure that they’re safe, we’re making sure that they have access to resources,” Allison said. “We actually carry food supplies and blankets in our cars, just in case someone is needing that.”
Chief Allison says there’s a portion of the homeless population who are grateful for the help. But others pose a dangerous threat to that group, and the community as a whole.
“Our homeless population, they don’t deserve to have to be victims of these type of predators,” Allison said.
Chief Allison says transients have been responsible for numerous violent crimes in the city. Sometimes the acts are toward other homeless individuals, who may or may not report it.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to think that they’re going to come to the police, that they’re going to come to us, because they’re afraid of getting the citations, they’re afraid that they’re going to go to jail, or they’re going to be in trouble, instead of the victims that they are,” Chief Allison said.
While Allison and her department are working to open the lines of communication and trust, they’re also trying to get people on the right track and out of this situation.
“We have some really great partners, I think that Rogue Retreat, amazing partner… Access, we really try to get those people into contact with organizations like that, because they are the ones who are able to start the pathway,” Chief Allison said. “Even if there isn’t a house available right now, they’re able to work through the process, and a lot of times, these people don’t even know the process.”
Even though there’s a long road ahead when it comes to tackling homelessness, Chief Allison says her department is up for the challenge.
“There’s always more to be done, so I think that’s us getting out in the community, our officers getting out in the community, thinking outside the box,” Chief Allison said. “Making sure that when we’re coming across people who need our services, that we’re exhausting all our options.”
To learn more about local resources for veterans or anyone struggling with homelessness, click here.