September 23, 2022

New partnerships to help PRPD fight homelessness

PORT RICHEY, Florida — The Port Richey Police Department has partnered with agencies that provide services to area homeless people to help address the issue in the city.

What do you want to know

  • The Port Richey Police Department has partnered with local agencies to address homelessness in the city
  • Police Chief Cyrus Robinson said it was an effort to get ahead of homelessness and not because of any particular increase in the homeless population.
  • Officers will now focus on reaching out to homeless people and providing them with information about available resources, rather than just moving them from campsites

“Homelessness isn’t unique to Port Richey – it’s nationwide,” Chief Cyrus Robinson said. “So we just decided that we were going to try maybe a little bit different approach where we would go out and get in touch with individuals to see, in fact, if they need services.”

Robinson said she has reached out to the Pasco County Homeless Coalition, The Sword and Spoon, Metropolitan Ministries and Boley Centers to find out what resources they can provide to homeless people in the area. Agents will now be able to connect those who want services with information on how to proceed.

Robinson said the new effort is not due to a growth in the city’s homeless population.

“We just wanted to get ahead,” he said. “We’ve had a problem with the homeless population, whether it’s minor petty crime or just trespassing. There’s usually a lot of trash and debris left on these campsites and things of that nature.

“So it’s a quality of life issue for the citizens of Port Richey, but it’s also a quality of life issue for those people, especially those who don’t know where to turn.”

“That’s pretty much every department we’ll have at the table trying to address the common issue, which is our homelessness issue right now with rising rents and no room for affordable housing. “said The Sword and Spoon president David Miller.

Miller said The Sword and Spoon focuses on raising awareness for the homeless. He said the group was hosting a lunch where people could get food and tune into services.

Miller said The Sword and Spoon is also deploying mobile services throughout the county to locate, identify and assess homeless people.

“A lot of them don’t even know where to go sometimes or who to call,” he said. “So it might take some time on the awareness side, because you have to build that trust.”

Agents can now also help agencies like The Sword and Spoon make first contact with someone in need of services. Patrol Officer Catey Caramiello was carrying supplies like extra clothing, food and water to give to homeless people she encountered even before these new partnerships. She said she had already given Miller’s phone number to homeless people she met.

“The same people I gave his number to, they’re like, ‘Oh, he helped me,'” Caramiello said. “There were people who moved here from Tennessee, I mean. They lived in their car. I gave him the number, and he was able to bring them back on a bus to Tennessee to their family.”

K9 officer Jason Zimmerman said he repeatedly encounters homeless people. He says some don’t want help, but the new partnerships could be a step forward for those who do.

“I think it’s a good start to get to an endgame, but what’s the endgame?” Zimmerman asked. “But we have to start somewhere. I think it’s a good step in the right direction to be able to provide services to people.”

Robinson said reaching out is just the first step in that process. The second step will be to move people from any property they are not permitted to camp on, followed by a site cleanup.