Arlington Heights is receiving a Community Partnership award from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for a Homeless Outreach Program that is a collaborative effort between the Police Department and Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health based in Arlington Heights. The Village will receive the award at ICMA’s 100th Annual Conference in mid- September.
The Community Partnership Award recognizes successful programs between local governments and other entities that improve the quality of life for residents and provide more efficient and effective services. Arlington Heights started the Homeless Outreach program several years ago as a way to provide resources to the homeless population that could assist them in returning to a mainstream lifestyle.
Some years ago, Arlington Heights’ Downtown area became attractive to homeless people because of its close proximity to several public buildings, parks and parking garages that offer a place to congregate and find shelter. While local religious institutions in conjunction with Journeys the Road Home have a successful overnight shelter program for the homeless, there are still some homeless people who do not avail themselves of the program. The Homeless Outreach program enabled the Police to do much more than focus on violations of the law. Instead, Police and Alexian Brothers worked together to positively influence the lives of homeless people who may be suffering from a mental illness and/or chemical dependency issues.
“The Arlington Heights Police Department and Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health collaborated on a project to outreach the homeless population in our Village. Statistics indicate that a vast majority of the homeless have untreated mental illness so the design of the project was to have a clinically trained therapist conduct initial assessments in the community and provide referrals to the Center where they could begin treatment for their illness and begin the process of recovery,” said Rick Germann Executive Director of the Alexian Brothers for Mental Health. “A member of the Arlington Heights Police Department transported the therapist to community locations and ensured a safe environment.”
“Working collaboratively has resulted in the ability of Police officers and professionals from Alexian Brothers to gain the trust of someone who is homeless and guide them toward resources that can immediately address their concerns. This teamwork has resulted in numerous success stories such as getting a suicidal homeless person back onto proper medication for a mental disorder for which they were diagnosed, and in helping a homeless individual meet with mental health practitioners and eventually move into a transitional living arrangement.
“This is wonderful recognition for our community and the partnerships the Village attempts to build in order to solve problems that arise,” said Village Manager Bill Dixon. “This particular initiative improved situations faced by homeless individuals and also improves the lives of residents who have been affected by the inappropriate behavior sometimes exhibited by a homeless individual.”
“The members of the Police Department gained valuable knowledge of the issues homeless individuals face on a daily basis as well as how to work with an individual experiencing symptoms of a mental illness in the community. The therapists learned about the value of meeting individuals where they are at in the community as well as the difficult task the officers face,” added Germann.