L.A. is Expanding a Pilot Program with a Team of Unarmed Professionals for Responding to Nonviolent 911 Calls

Mental health response teams are being expanded in Los Angeles as part of a yearlong experiment to deal with calls for service from the police that do not involve violence against the homeless.

To aid the homeless, Urban Alchemy was founded. As part of the city’s Crisis and Incident Response Community-Led Engagement program (CIRCLE), the nonprofit has assembled teams to assist with response efforts. The CIRCLE team is sent out whenever there is a 911 call reporting a peaceful homeless person needing assistance.

CIRCLE is implemented through a team of mental health professionals and specialists

One licensed mental health professional and one outreach specialist make up each team. They are often referred to as “ambassadors” in the community. Following last year’s deployments in Hollywood and Venice, more couples are being sent to East L.A., the San Fernando Valley, and South L.A.

Dr. Lena Miller, the co-founder of Urban Alchemy, said, “When people are… in crisis, they can meet them in those moments with a sense of calm, with patience, with compassion, and without judging.” How, then, do the teams establish rapport with the homeless individuals they approach? Many people in the CIRCLE can relate to the struggles these individuals are having.

For instance, Ronda Briggs claims to have been a homeless street person. She claims to have spent the past 16 years working with homeless people on the same streets she once called home. They are more likely to open up and share their deepest needs, desires, and wants with a team member like myself and some of my other team members that are familiar with them, Briggs said.

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