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IMPD Homeless Unit takes different approach to protect and serve population

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indianapolis Police Department’s Homeless Unit is taking a different approach to protecting and serving the most vulnerable.

News 8 got a behind-the-scenes look at their outreach in downtown and surrounding areas.

IMPD’s Homeless Unit has existed for 10 years. It consists of officers who are connecting homeless individuals to resources instead of making an arrest. Police are joined by Andrea DeMink, outreach director with PourHouse.

They monitor areas where there’s primarily a homeless population to hand out food, clothes, shoes and blankets. The unit even helps individuals find a job or housing. Officers and DeMink work with Horizon House Inc. and Wheeler Mission for assistance.

Officer Phillip Smiley said they get dozens of calls from downtown businesses a day of homeless individuals being a nuisance. Smiley said they help while abiding by The Homeless Bill of Rights passed by Indianapolis City-County Council.

“If they’re living on the street, if they’ve set up a camp on state or city property and they’re not obstructing anyone else’s ability to use that property like a sidewalk and if there’s still room for people to get through; unless I can house someone immediately in permanent housing then they have the right to stay where they’re at without being arrested or forced to move from that spot,” said Smiley.

Smiley mentioned they have a partnership with Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and had a psychiatrist on board before the coronavirus pandemic.

The unit also works to build relationships with individuals as it has helped them solve crimes on the streets.

Smiley added he would like to bring a psychiatrist back to the unit and expand by adding an SUV or mobile home to better serve the homeless population in the future.