Working Side By Side: Hallandale Beach Police Department Hires A Community Relations Specialist To Help Assist With Connecting Individuals To Resources
By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper
May 11, 2023
Over the years our City has seen its share of homeless people. We always have had individuals at the Off Ramps of I-95 Panhandling and on our main corridors. Throughout time there are always some people that fall into hard times and need basic necessities like food and shelter. Today’s reality is that increasingly we are seeing Panhandlers and individuals sleeping in bus shelters or even worse simply on the ground. Let me make it clear, it is not legal for people to be camping out. We are trying what we can within the Law and the parameters of human kindness to address this new reality.
Recently, Chief Michel hired a Community Relations Specialist Iman Sandifer to work directly with homeless people and other quality of life issues. He will be working side by side with the Hallandale Beach Police Department to help answer complaints and other situations where he can assist with connecting individuals to resources.
There are many reasons why there are more homeless people. In my opinion there are many but there are four major reasons. Changes in the Laws, Drugs and Mental Illness. Years ago, Police Officers would pick up indigents on drugs or alcohol and take them to jail. From there, they would end up in the system or transferred to a Mental Health Hospital. In the 1980’s President Reagan moved to shut down the Mental Hospitals as this continued over the years. It is not a Democratic or Republican Issue, it is a Societal Issue.
Mental Health Treatment was moved to a Community Based System. There was a big push to stop forced treatment of the Mentally Ill. This combined with Big Pharma pushing Oxycontin giving us the Opioid Epidemic and then with COVID-19 has cities around the country witnessing and trying to deal with a real crisis.
With this said there is very little we can do when it comes to the many homeless people who are simply unwilling to get help. Our Police Officers can offer to take individuals to the Broward Outreach Center. We cannot force them to go. We can encourage them to get help if they are medically in need and take them to a hospital. I have met with a few chronically homeless people over the past years and tried to help. They continued to not want to get help or change their circumstances.
With homelessness comes Panhandling. Recently there was a Supreme Court Ruling that has drastically changed a Municipalities’ ability to regulate any type of Panhandling. The ruling did not get much fanfare due to other rulings like the Roe Decision. The Supreme Court ruled that solicitation of money is a form of Free Speech. Our City to my knowledge has never fined or arrested anyone for Panhandling, we simply have taken a move along approach, but now we will see more Panhandling.
A few years back we adopted an Ordinance Banning Panhandling on our roadways. The Ban was based on Safety Issues. At that time there was a Shelter in Hollywood. As a way to support the Homeless Shelter, the CEO had Clients selling a newspaper called the “Homeless Voice.” They began a Legal Challenge to our Rule that does not allow the selling of items, especially on our medians. Rather than going to court, we made an annual donation to the center which actually helped people and eventually, it closed.
This New Ruling still has not been fully evaluated to see if it nullifies our Current Regulations. It does, however, allow Panhandling at our City Hall, in Parks, Bus Shelters and Sidewalks. People can hold signs and ask for money. There is a difference between Passive Solicitation and Aggressive Solicitation. Holding a sign and asking for a donation is different from harassing and threatening someone for money. Our City Attorney will be analyzing the New Ruling and our Ordinance.
The Law impacts Public Property only. It does not prevent Stores and Business Owners from having Panhandlers removed from their property for Trespassing. We all empathize with the homeless people. San Francisco took the approach to keep piling on assistance. They also allow Quality-Of-Life Issues to be ignored.
This pattern has been repeated in many cities. There needs to be a better way, but small cities like Hallandale Beach cannot do it on our own. I always tell people to call me directly with these issues. Or you can call the Hallandale Beach Police Department’s Non-Emergency Line to report situations at: (954) 765-4321. Many people just turn the other way. Others like to give money and food. There is no right and wrong. With Mr. Sandifer joining the Hallandale Beach Police Department, hopefully we can change the pattern of Chronic Homelessness here.
Happy Mother’s Day!
As always, I am available for your questions, concerns and ideas to help make our City a better place. Please feel free to reach out to me at my Office: (954) 457-1318. On my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. Or Email me at: email@example.com.