The Oklahoma City Community College Police Department has been trying to reach out to the school’s population and make efforts to help people in need.
Just recently, Police chief Daniel Piazza and the rest of the OCCCPD have begun work on a new outreach program for Oklahoma City’s homeless population.
Chief Piazza said when the OCCCPD identifies a need, whether it be for the campus community or the surrounding community within the proximity of our campus, they want to be able to do everything they can do to address those needs.
He then noted the OCCCPD has a great working relationship with the Oklahoma City Police Department, and he feels that the efforts to assist the homeless community doesn’t only benefit the college, but also the greater OKC area.
“The homelessness need has seen an increase in the areas surrounding the campus. To best prepare ourselves to assist in helping, we decided to take a proactive stance and prepare officers to provide valuable social service resources to the homeless population we encounter,” Chief Piazza said.
Chief Piazza also hopes that the homeless outreach program can help alleviate some pressure from other law enforcement agencies.
The homeless outreach program at OCCC began in May when Chief Piazza and the OCCCPD had a meeting with the Oklahoma Street Outreach Team from the Mental Health Association.
During this meeting, the OCCCPD gained a comprehensive list of resources for the officers and the homeless community at large.
Chief Piazza then noted the OCCCPD already had several encounters with homeless people on campus who needed somewhere to go. The Patrol Division successfully connected these people with resources to get them away from the street and into a temporary shelter.
Chief Piazza’s favorite part of being involved in the homeless outreach project is being able to help people, as he and the OCCCPD don’t want the homeless community to fear their department or law enforcement in general.
“I find gratification in ensuring our officers do everything in their power to help someone regardless of their situation. When this happens, I feel we have done our jobs to the fullest,” he said.
While there have not been any issues so far since the program has just begun, Chief Piazza did say that it has been a struggle to differentiate between the homeless population who really need help or the small group of homeless people who commit criminal acts.
Chief Piazza recommended that people contact the OCCCPD, either by their phone number (405) 682-7872 or on the OCCC Shield application.
He further explained he wants the community to know that a phone call to them does not mean that the homeless person will be in trouble.
“Our officers are compassionate and have the resources to help, whether it is a mental health need, housing need, or food need, we will do our best to provide this help to them,” Chief Piazza said.
Chief Piazza mentioned the homeless population stood at more than 1,300 people during the last OKC annual homeless population count, which decreased from the prior year.
He hopes that the numbers of the homeless population continue to decline and that the OCCCPD does its part to ensure that this continues to happen.
One of the things that have proven to be concerning is that 20 percent of the people who reported being homeless are younger than 24 years old. Chief Piazza hopes to focus the OCCCPD’s efforts on helping the younger homeless population.
“This demographic is a large part of our campus community, and we want to be able to provide the appropriate resources before situations get so bad, they are forced into homelessness,” Piazza said.