By MANJIT SAPPAL
Martinez Chief of Police
Collaborative partnerships are an invaluable way to leverage resources and effectively solve problems. As you may be aware, we entered into a collaborative partnership with Contra Costa County and the Pleasant Hill Police Department to focus on homelessness. The approach entails using outreach through the County CORE (Coordinated Outreach Referral and Engagement) Team.
One of the challenges we face with the homeless problem is abating encampments. When we find or receive information about homeless encampments, we respond as does the CORE Team. The CORE Team will offer services and assistance as well as build relationships with those at the encampments and the officers will notice those in the encampment that they have three days to vacate the area if it is on public property, based on legal parameters. After the area has been posted and three days have elapsed, we respond with Public Works to clean up items left behind.
The cleanup efforts can be a challenge as often times numerous abandoned articles are left behind and the cleanup can entail dealing with biohazards, used syringes, and items that have been left outdoors for long periods. The level of resources it takes our Public Works team is considerable and usually pulls them away from dealing with other projects. They have done a remarkable job working with us to abate encampments!
Several months ago, the city explored a partnership with Republic Services, the waste management company that provides services in Martinez, to assist in these cleanups.
Deputy Director of Administrative Services Michael Chandler explored this with Republic Services and they were enthusiastic about working with us. The discussions led to a collaboration in which Republic Services has contracted with Service Masters (an abatement company) to aid in cleaning up homeless encampments.
With this new approach, when we notice encampments, we notify Public Works Superintendent Bob Cellini who assesses whether the site would be better served with clean up through Republic Services. If it is, he notifies Republic Services who contracts with Service Masters to conduct the cleanup. There are times when our Public Works will assist with the cleanups or they may provide equipment, depending on the terrain, but Service Masters has taken the lead on conducting the clean ups.
This endeavor, thus far, has been amazing and Republic Services has been covering the costs associated with the cleanups. I really want to acknowledge them for stepping up in assisting with our homelessness problem by tackling this important aspect of public safety and community cleanup efforts. Please note that we are operating under a trial run and will re-evaluate in the near future.