This was provided by the Baltimore City Office of Human Services, Homeless Services Division at the City Council Housing Committee meeting on Revisiting The Journey Home.
BALTIMORE CITY PROTOCOL FOR DISMANTLING HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS
1. When any encampment is identified, its location is reported to outreach workers who will engage the individuals living there and support them in connecting with housing and service providers.
2. When any City agency becomes aware of potentially dangerous conditions occurring in an illegal encampment, the appropriate agency or agencies (e.g. the Fire Marshal, Health Department, etc) are contacted to conduct health and safety assessments.
3. City agencies determine whether safety concerns can be mitigated or whether the illegal encampment needs to be cleared.
4. The City establishes an appropriate date for the clearing of the encampment.
5. When the date is set the Project Coordinator will notify the Hands in Partnership (HIP) outreach teams so that they can inform the campers. The outreach teams will continue to connect people with housing and supportive services. In addition to permanent housing, at this point outreach workers will also help people identify appropriate short-term placement options if permanent housing cannot be secured by the date the encampment is scheduled to be cleared.
6. The Project Coordinator will communicate with City agencies to ensure the action is organized and implemented with care to minimize risk of harm to everyone involved.
a. Department of PUBLIC WORKS - will provide storage bags and a 90-day storage facility, assist with bagging and labeling items to be transported to the storage facility, and clear trash and debris after storage items have been removed.
b. POLICE- Officers of the local district (including BEST officers, who are trained to work with individual with mental illness) will be on-site to ensure safety and will avoid making arrests if at all possible. Plainclothes officers are ideal. Visible police presence should be kept to a minimum unless a stronger presence (e.g. riot police) is needed to ensure safety in a large crowd situation. If people obstruct the clean-up or refuse to leave, police will intervene to ensure people are required to move in as peaceful a manner as possible.
c. Department of Transportation-will be contacted in advance to formulate a plan to secure the site immediately after it is cleared/
d. Office of Emergency Management-will be contacted in advance to plan for potentially hazardous outcomes (bio-waste contamination, crowd management,etc.) and will be on-site to manage any unforeseen issues that may occur.
7. The Project Coordinator will work with outreach teams to ensure short-term and long-term options are communicated and individuals are assisted in making appropriate transition plans.
a. Permanent housing plans: All homeless individuals are able to meet with an outreach worker or case manager to be assessed for eligibility for permanent housing via City-funded programs (e.g. Healthcare for the Homeless, People Encouraging People, etc.) All permanent housing programs have a set of eligibility criteria. Individuals who don’t qualify for a permanent subsidy (usually newly homeless people or people without a disability) will be assisted in acquiring permanent housing through other types of assistance (e.g. transitional programs, job training programs, Rapid Re-housing, etc.) All of this assistance will be provided to the person “where they are” and will not require treatment in consistency with the Housing First model.
b. Short-term plans-Many individuals in encampments refuse assistance until shortly before the camp is scheduled to be cleared. If the individual has not yet completed the referral and lease-up process for permanent housing (which can take several months), they will be informed of their options for temporary placement on the date of action. They are free to choose or decline any of these options, and will continue to be assisted by outreach workers regardless of their choice, as is consistent with the Housing First model. Individuals who choose to remain on the street are still able to stay in contact with their outreach worker.
Depending on their eligibility criteria (e.g. length of homelessness, presence and type of disability, health conditions, etc.) individuals may be eligible for hotel stays, transitional housing placements, Rapid Re-housing placements, smaller shelters (e.g. Safe Havens), or larger shelters. Note: Some but not all of these placements require a referral process that may take weeks or several days and thus require cooperation from individuals ahead of time.
8. On the day the encampment is cleared:
a. Homeless individuals who have not left the camp for other placements will be assisted in identifying and connecting with short-term options.
b. Outreach workers will be on site to offer transportation, information, and referrals. Outreach workers will collect information about where each individual is going so they can continue to assist them.
c. The Project Coordinator will work with DPW, outreach workers, advocates and campers to facilitate the process of identifying items to be stored (belongings) versus items to be discarded (trash, unwanted belongings and debris).
d. The Project Coordinator will provide written information about how to retrieve stored items.
e. DPW will help bag and label items identified as belongings and will transport these to the temporary storage facility.
f. DPW will then clear and discard remaining trash and debris.
9. After the encampment is cleared, outreach workers will continue to work with individuals who have not yet finalized their permanent housing placement. Outreach workers and case managers (as appropriate) will continue to work with individuals who are newly placed in housing to ensure they remain stably housed.