As county and state offices navigate long-term solutions to homelessness in Los Angeles County and California, Claremont business owners are faced with creating short-term solutions to keep employees comfortable and customers coming back amid disruptions from homeless individuals in crisis.
The Claremont Village Marketing Group hosted a public forum Thursday, July 27 to gain insights from city staff about what to do should they find themselves in an intimidating encounter.
Claremont Police Lt. David DeMetz and Cprl. Garrett Earl, as well as Michelle Castillo, management analyst for human resources, represented the city.
The most effective thing business owners can do, police emphasized, is to educate their staff about calling police. Lt. DeMetz shared how police recently responded to a call from a Village West business regarding a homeless individual who was belligerent and physically violent. As officers scuffled with the individual to make an arrest, a second employee from the same business came out with a plate of take-out food for the person being arrested.
Claremont police recommend that the general population not give cash or take-out food to the homeless, but rather call police so that the city’s Psychiatric Assessment Care Team can identify people in need and get them into the system for appropriate, permanent care.
The small donations of cash and food given to the homeless by residents who are shopping downtown will often deter people in crisis from receiving the long-term rehabilitation needed to reclaim stable housing and employment.
In the meantime, Village business owners are urged to call police if a homeless person is camped on their private property or causing damage. Once contact is made by officers, the business owner will be required to approve arrest of the individual for trespassing on private property. Police acknowledge that although this may not feel charitable, getting a homeless person “in the system” gives them the greatest chance of obtaining the services they need.
Police also encourage property owners to install video cameras, like Ring, so that they are alerted at any time of day when a person trespasses on their property. Owners should immediately call police, any time day or night, so that an officer can be dispatched.
CVMG members requested additional foot patrol in the early-morning and later evening hours near public parking areas, like behind city hall and in the Village West parking structure. In an email sent to the CVMG, Lt. DeMetz said he put the extra patrols in place beginning Monday, July 31.
An open discussion among approximately 50 people in attendance at the meeting brought forward several suggestions for immediate solutions to challenges Village business owners are facing. Those include removing or taking over ownership of the public benches throughout the downtown and installing small signs on light poles directing people to not engage in panhandling.
CVMG will continue to send out surveys through the OurClaremontVillage app to gather input on policy changes and solutions. The results of the surveys will be shared with city staff by CVMG on behalf of Village businessowners.