WESTMINISTER, Calif. — Homelessness is something many of our communities are increasingly dealing with.
The big question is how to efficiently help those in need and get them off the streets.
There is a first-of-its-kind partnership in the city of Westminster working to solve that problem.
Westminster officer Roland Perez and his partner are on patrol, but they are not looking for people breaking the law. This mission is different.
"Going around, seeing if there are any homeless camps, seeing if I can outreach to anybody that is there," he said.
Perez is part of the homeless coalition, which he said is the first-of-its-kind partnership in the city, made up of faith-based churches and the Westminster Police Department. The coalition aims to address the needs and problem-solve for the local homeless population together.
Perez said what makes the partnership different is the two groups working together, not separately, for the same cause.
"What happens is you tend to have a church that does food feedings and then another church that does groceries and stuff like that, but all the churches do not know what everyone is doing. So, this is a great way to bring all the churches together and find out what they are doing for the community and see how we can best work together," he said.
Westminster city officials said there are around 142 homeless people in the city. It is a big enough issue that the city is weighing its options on building an emergency shelter. That is a reality Perez sees daily. He knows where all the encampments are.
An encampment around the corner from a residential neighborhood is where Vietnam veteran Dan Colburn calls home. Colburn explained that he had nothing to live for after his wife died 10 years ago.
"No family that is my biggest problem. I have a daughter that lives about a mile in a half from here and I do not get to see her that often," Colburn said.
For those like Colburn that want help, Perez builds a bridge to connect them with local churches. Pastor Paul Park spearheads that side of the effort and coordinates about a dozen churches with resources to help.
"With the police department going out and being the first touch, if the homeless person has a need we will find the closest church in their region. Homeless people may not drive, maybe they can walk to a nearby church, so maybe [all] they need is clothing food. I will know which church is doing what on what day of the week and making sure they fulfil their needs," Park said.
Some of the needs are basic, such as clean clothes. Hope Church is involved and holds a Laundry of Love event each month, where people can wash their clothes for free.
Perez noted that while the help is there, that does not mean it will be easily accepted.
"You deal with a lot of people that are mentally ill, drug use, mental illness and people that just want to do what they want to do and that is to be left alone," he said.
For those who want off the streets, the homeless collation is there with compassion and empathy every step of the way.