Brea police officer helps redefine what homeless outreach can look like

For the past seven years, Brea Police Department Officer Teri Hill has focused on helping the homeless full-time.
BREA, Calif. (KABC) -- For the past seven years, Brea Police Department Officer Teri Hill has focused on the homeless full-time.

"The big thing about this is making connections with people," she said. "Getting out there, meeting people, so when I call the shelter, they know who I am and they know that I'm there to help people."

As the department's only homeless liaison officer, she and two full-time volunteers utilize a number of local agencies and organizations.

"We have Orange County Mental Health, we have the Orange County Health Care Agency that I work with very closely, and I can call them right now and they will come out and address the issue that we have with the homeless," said Hill.

Most recently, they were able to get an 18-year-old mother into housing with her baby boy.

"We worked our butts off to get her into this house and she's still there," she said.

On the flip side, she says there are those who don't want help and have mental health issues.

"So people will call us about some guy on the corner screaming or walking in the streets and there's no place to put that guy, and I really think we need to focus on the mentally ill so that we have somewhere to put them. And get them better," said Hill.

For Brea police, when it comes to the homeless, it's not all about enforcement.

"That's the big thing we want people to know - it's outreach first. It's all about what kind of resources can we give you to help you in your situation," said Lt. Phil Rodriguez, the department's public information officer.

For Hill and her volunteers, it's about approaching each person with compassion.

"Actually show them that you care because you can pretend and they'll see right through that," said Hill.

"Many of these people have no one they trust. No one that has really made a difference in their lives and been authentic about it," said volunteer Claudia Hamano.

After the department posted about the success with the young homeless mother, their Facebook followers expressed appreciation, some saying this is how it's done.
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