RADFORD – Radford Interim Police Chief Jerry Holdaway says his department is using a community policing approach to address homelessness in the city.
At the Sept. 25 meeting of the Radford City Council, Holdaway said his department has altered their response to citizen complaints about homeless individuals and is working with community agencies, such as New River Community Action (NRCA), to link up people without a home with resources that can help them.
“We want what’s best for our citizens,” said Holdaway. “Previously, if we responded to a citizen complaint and there was no mental health issue or criminal complaint, we would just clear them out and move onto the next call. This new model includes collecting data and passing it along to agencies that can help. We’re using it as an opportunity to provide services for them within our community.”
“This gives us a chance to invest in a societal approach instead of just a basic law enforcement standard,” he continued. “We are not the only agency facing this problem, but I like to think we are the spearhead, where other jurisdictions are just dealing with it, we are actually trying to implement a model that is going to evolve and get something moving in the right direction.”
Holdaway said the department and NRCA are in the process of completing a resource card to give to people in need to let them know of the help that is available to them. He said officers, along with NRCA personnel, recently went out around the city at 4:30 a.m. to count and communicate with homeless individuals and made contact with eight people, but he said the numbers fluctuate and it is often difficult to make contact with them. Radford Mayor David Horton lauded the department for its efforts.
“This is a huge challenge and I know that a lot of homeless people are transient many times and come and stay here for a time and then may go to another community so it’s always hard to capture the number [of homeless individuals at any one time],” said Horton. “We really appreciate the work you all are doing, and I think this is the right approach to start building some channels for communication and start helping folks find that there are resources.”
Vice Mayor Seth Gillespie agreed.
“I think this is a good, proactive approach,” he said. “You can’t arrest your way out of homelessness. To take this approach and really try to get to the bottom of some answers, I really appreciate.”
“This is just part of the ongoing community policing efforts, led by Sergeant [Emily] Hite,” added Horton. The work she and the whole team have done has just been remarkable.”
The Radford City Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Radford Administration Building, located at 10 Robertson St., Radford.