This Is How Cops Should Treat Homeless People

Steve Wick doesn't just patrol people on the streets of Houston -- he befriends them, too.

The sergeant helps run the city's Homeless Outreach Team, HOT, within the police department's mental health division. Along with four officers and three mental health case workers, Wick has helped move more than 400 people off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing since 2011, according to Nationswell.

HOT is partnered with dozens of local organizations that provide a host of services -- from housing and healthcare to ID cards and job opportunities -- to the homeless.

"All these folks in the street are not bad," Wick said in a video by Nationswell, noting he met someone with an engineering degree and people who've attended The Juilliard School who were homeless. "These are people that need somebody to talk to, somebody that cares about them, become their advocate and help them get off the street."

HOT's mission is to curb complaints associated with homeless people by finding them stable shelter -- "Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?" Wick said.

The team's simple idea has contributed to Houston's mission fighting homelessness, which has made significant progress in recent years. On a given night, there are about 5,351 homeless people in the city -- down 37 percent since 2011, according to a 2014 count by Coalition for the Homeless. The city has also housed more than 2,800 homeless veterans since January 2012, a press release from the coalition announced in September.

HOT's mission isn't just improving numbers on spreadsheets, though -- it's changing the lives of Houston's most vulnerable.

"I see him just about every day, and he always stops and says, 'Hi,'" one homeless man said in the video. "That doesn't happen very often with other cops. It means a great deal, because at least somebody out here cares, you know? Someone in a uniform cares."



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