LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Members of Metro outreach teams are tasked with roaming the transit system seven days a week, helping homeless people by providing them with much-needed services.
When PATH teams approach "a potential client, we start off with hygiene kits because it's an ice-breaker," said William Armstead. "And then we attempt to engage them and ask them what the client's needs are."
Karen Barnes, PATH's associate director, explained: "We locate people who are using the (transit) system for shelter and we try to connect them to services and hopefully to housing.
"Outreach is really about making that connection," Barnes said, "really meeting people where they're at and building a strong relationship with them, in order to help people realize that there is hope."
She described the population of people who use L.A. County's Metropolitan Transportation Authority system for shelter as tremendously diverse.
"We see people who are brand-new homeless, who are not familiar with the streets, don't want to be on the streets and in encampments and are not comfortable with that," Barnes said. "There are also people who are very mentally ill."
So far this year, more than 20 people have died on Metro trains and buses, most from apparent drug overdoses. That number is equal to the total number throughout L.A.'s public transit system all of last year.
According to Metro data, 325 crimes occurred on trains and buses in February, 57% of which were assaults and rapes.
"The homeless situation on Metro's system is absolutely a symptom of Los Angeles' homelessness crisis overall," Barnes said.