Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch said the city posted signs in Central Park to discourage people, including the homeless, from camping downtown.
The sign reads: “No camping or maintaining accommodation in the park. Clothing and personal effects are subject to forfeiture. Need help. Call 211.”
Those who don’t move will be arrested, Porch said.
On June 15, luggage was sitting on the ground near a bench in Central Park unattended.
Authorities have been working to limit issues that have arisen downtown with vagrants saying inappropriate comments, among other actions, to female customers exiting businesses.
The Richland County Mental Health Services Board has worked to provide mental health services to people who are homeless and live in Central Park and need help.
Not everyone is homeless.
“We have a lot of people who have ideas about the needs of homeless people, but no one was talking to homeless people. That’s what the team is built for. We want them to talk to people,” Joe Trolian, director of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Agency, said Friday.
“There’s a lot of concern about people on the streets seeing people downtown. A percentage of them aren’t homeless,” Trolian said.
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What social workers found people needed
In May, social workers had conversations with 104 people in the city centre, the majority of men (67.3%) aged between 25 and 44, two-thirds of men and one-third of women (32.6% ).
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Many people are not homeless, some already Catalyst clients, he said.
In May, Catalyst social workers referred 33 downtown people, including seven people, to crisis intervention; three people for the evaluations; and one person for psychotherapy at agencies including 11 people at Catalyst, four at Catholic Charities, four at Catholic Charities, four at Salvation Army, 1 Community Action, three at Harmony House, HEAP, one at Job and Family Services and two at Social Security, UMADAOP, Family Life, Healing Hearts and HOPE 419, Trolian said.
Other people downtown were referred to agencies such as Addy’s Closet, Richland County First Call 211 and Third Street Family Services, he added.
Some people didn’t need any service, he said.
“It’s kind of where I predicted things would go. We’d have a handful of people that we’re going to work with,” he said.
The first contact was made on May 2. The project is budgeted until June 30, 2023.
“We’re funding it on our end through a state Opioid Response Grant,” Trolian said. “We are preparing to write a third version of this grant and if we get this grant, we will have the funding to continue. We have the funding for (police officers) until June 2023.”
Pilot Program History
The homeless response pilot program which was developed through a collaborative effort between local mental health, government and business officials began about a month ago in downtown Mansfield.
The program had a clinician from Catalyst Life Services partner with a law enforcement officer from the Mansfield Police Department, who spent 12 hours a week in three four-hour shifts doing outreach and l interaction with the homeless population.
According to Trolian, contacts have been made not only in places on the streets where homeless people congregate, but also in fixed sites such as Harmony House, City Church, the Bowman Street Nutrition Center and other places. who provide assistance.
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Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch says
Porch said the detail (of Mansfield police officers) was working with social workers for security purposes.
“At the end of the day, when you have vagrants who don’t want services and aren’t homeless, you go to plan B,” Porch said. “We are doing everything we can to avoid criminal prosecution.
“We take a proactive approach to providing services to them,” Porch said. “Social workers can do on-site assessments.”
Porch said he wants his officers to connect with people sleeping in downtown Central Park and learn about the real struggles of homelessness.
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“Nine out of 10 times with homelessness it’s substance abuse and mental health issues,” he said. “What do you do when no one wants services, which causes problems while camping. It could cause a host of problems, including becoming victims of crime or perpetuating crimes,” Porch added.
“I would prefer cooperation over compliance,” Porch said.