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Housing and Homelessness

LA Will Pilot Not Using Police In Non-Emergency Calls Involving Unhoused People

Four workers are walking down a street wearing all black and vests that identify them as part of Urban Alchemy, the nonprofit hired by Mitch O'Farrell's district to assist with outreach for the homeless. They are handing out food and water to unhoused people who are in tents on the sidewalk.
Outreach workers from Urban Alchemy hired by Mitch O'Farrell's council district hand out food and water to unhoused people at an encampment near the Shatto Recreation Center on Nov. 2.
(Ethan Ward
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Starting next month in Hollywood and Venice, 9-1-1 calls about non-violent incidents involving unhoused people will be answered by mental health professionals and crisis response workers.

Councilmember Mike Bonin says this an issue on which Black Lives Matter and the L.A. police officers’ union agree, "that cops should not be on the front lines being the city’s first response to homelessness."

The non-profit Urban Alchemy is being contracted to provide the crisis response teams. Founder Lena Miller says her staffers are trained to de-escalate situations and get people help. Several have been homeless and dealt with mental health and addiction issues.

Miller says the workers will “use their lived experience to engage with people who are living in the experience to really reach out. To be patient. To listen. To connect them with resources."

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The types of non-emergency calls that will be routed to the crisis response teams include being on private property, having a mental health crisis or being dangerously intoxicated.

City leaders hope to expand the pilot program to other neighborhoods.

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