Long Beach Prosecutor’s Office receives largest grant in office’s history for homeless outreach

The $360,000 grant will help fund a new iPhone app for officers to use when conducting homeless outreach.

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The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the Long Beach Prosecutor’s Office with a $360,000 grant to help police connect the homeless in the community with services and other support programs.

Only three cities in California were awarded these grant funds, and Long Beach’s portion of the grant is the largest one in California, according to City Prosecutor Doug Haubert.

“This is big for us,” he said. “We haven’t received a grant like this in the [prosecutor’s] office’s 90-year history.”

The “Innovative Prosecution Solutions” grant money will be used to help police officers obtain real-time information of what services better serve the homeless individuals they encounter. The goal is to re-connected the homeless to those services without getting arrested, according to Haubert.

These services include housing, mental-health and substance-abuse assistance.

Haubert said the recently acquired grant will help fund the development of a mobile-phone application called “GUIDES,” which is short for the Government User Integrated Diversion Enhancement System.

Haubert explained that about 10 years ago, multiple City departments operated on their own and seldomly came together to solve the community’s issues.

One issue in particular was criminal reoffenders, which Haubert noted that some happened to be homeless.

In 2018, the City launched a coalition of agencies, referred to as the Justice Lab, which allowed various offices such as the Human Services Department and the Long Beach Police Department to work together toward solving local issues.

To help further establish communication between the agencies, the City is working on the GUIDES app to help coordinate the departments’ efforts.

“Human Services might have a bed out there for someone with mental-health issues to use, now the police will know about it,” Haubert explained. “Or, Human Services can’t find the person to use the bed, but the police might know where the person is.”

GUIDES is being developed to equip first responders with information to quickly identify what programs are most appropriate for the transients they come in contact with in the community.

“If successful, GUIDES will help decrease arrests for low-level offenses, and increase the number of persons who are connected to services by law enforcement,” Haubert said.

Although the GUIDES app is currently in the planning phase, the City is hoping the app could be replicated for other cities to use in the future.

Haubert said that a technology partner will help program the app, however, that has not yet been determined.

January is the projected month for the development phase. From there, the beta-testing phase will ensue, and finally the fourth phase will roll out the app for more officers to use, according to Haubert.

“The timing is perfect,” he said. “Over the summer, the Long Beach Police Department began issuing iPhones to all officers. Officers now have hand-held devices, and creating the GUIDES application to work on mobile devices will make it easier for officers in the field to access GUIDES.”

The City has been nationally recognized in the past for creating dedicated homeless-outreach agencies, such as HEART teams, Quality of Life officers and the Multi-Service center–– the latter serves as a one-stop shop for all homeless services and needs–– according to a 2017 City memorandum.

These agencies and programs make up the Public Safety Continuum, which was developed to help make the city safer.

The City received approximately $13.8 million collectively in 2017 to fund homeless-support programs, according to the memorandum. The funding came from outside grants, Measure H and other City revenues.