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Cops take aim at homelessness

New program will attempt to meet needs of clients, follow up with them.

December 10, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • A new Burbank police program aims to reduce the number of transients on city streets. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
A new Burbank police program aims to reduce the number…

Burbank Police Sgt. Mike Parrinello envisions himself as the one to help keep homeless people on the path to recovery and off the streets.

“We’re the go-betweens, since we have contact with them,” Parrinello said. “We’re coordinating between officers, resources and whatever organizations will help.”

The program models are still being tested and put together, but Parrinello is part of a budding effort at the Burbank Police Department to take a more proactive approach in reducing the number of transients on city streets.

Parrinello has already served as a liaison between officers, residents, community organizations and the homeless population for roughly nine months.

“It’s a lot easier when you have someone in your corner helping you out,” Parrinello said. “We envision this isn’t going to be just, ‘We’ll point you in the right direction.’ We’ll help you get there, and follow up to make sure it’s working properly. If not, we’ll find another means.”

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Too often, a connection is made and there is no follow-up, he added.

“If their needs are not met, there could be some regression, discouragement and the negative spiral occurs again,” Parrinello said. “If we can help with homelessness or mental health or addiction challenges before it becomes a criminal matter, it helps the community.”

Burbank police in recent months began conversations with local nonprofits and faith-based organizations to pull together a grass-roots effort to combat an increase in homelessness.

According to a survey conducted this year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, 202 people in Burbank were homeless, and of those, 114 were without shelter, 48 were using an emergency shelter and 40 were in transitional housing.

Given the strain on resources, police are hoping to find a more permanent solution to assist people who are homeless and suffering from mental health problems.

Parrinello and Burbank Police Capt. Mike Albanese, who oversees the initiative, both decided to expand his role, Parrinello said.

“The time we put in now should be exponential in time-saving in the long term,” he said, adding that two other officers will serve on the front lines of the new endeavor.

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