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RCPD Quality of Life Unit works with high-risk group

Quality of Life Unit works to “meet people where they are”
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 6:49 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In recent weeks, Mayor Steve Allender has talked about the homeless population in Rapid City.

Police also say it is an issue, as they try to keep the homeless and non-homeless members of the community safe.

One police unit proactively helping the homeless doesn’t wear uniforms and works to have rapport with the homeless community.

“They know who we are. We don’t have to go in and say ‘I’m the police,’” said Jim Hansen, Senior Patrolman with the RCPD Qualify of Life Unit. “What it does is we meet people where they are. We go under the bridges, we go into the creek bottoms. We go into abandoned buildings and we find them where they are and try to help them”

The quality of life unit was formed April 1, 2018, and Hansen said non-traditional units like this one are important because times are changing. Hansen said people who are homeless need someone to guide them to the social services. The Quality of Life Unit helps serve as an intermediary to those resources. He also said these people are at a high risk for harm.

“They are severely at risk,” said Hansen. “You need to understand that they prey on themselves, and then they’re also victims from other entities that know who are these people going to call. They don’t like the police, so they’re don’t want to call the police.”

Just this week, a campfire may have caused the death of a homeless man. The homeless camps are described as terrible living conditions and are intentionally hidden away from society.

“Are you saying it’s a choice to live in those camps?” asked Anderley Penwell.

“Yes. It is a choice,” said Hansen. “A lot of those are willing homeless because the unwilling will take advantage of these and move out. Now, they may be willing homeless today, but by making all these contact, tomorrow they may become unwilling, at which time they will be willing to accept the services and move forward.”

Hansen said enabling behavior is not part of the solution--- people need to be putting funds into resources that can help make long-term adjustments.

“Handing them a $5 bill to go get a sandwich is not going to work because they’re going to go buy alcohol with it,” said Hansen. “You need to be able to donate correctly to parties that can help these people.”

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