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Homeless Outreach Team works to reduce homeless rate

Two members of the Oklahoma City Police Department work to target the city's homeless population that may need help finding the right resource. (KOKH/Will Maetzold)

Sgts. Felix Valadez and Bobby Prater see a lot in their role as Homeless Outreach Team officers at the Oklahoma City Police Department. Their job is to find where the homeless are staying in the city and try to help.

"We have such great resources that everyday we meet someone from out of town who heard about our resources and get here and hang out," Valadez said. "Make this their home."

The officers said some people don't know where to go once they get to the city and they provide that information.

"Probably our biggest resource we use is the day shelter and the Homeless Alliance," Prater said. "More often than not they're open 6 a.m. - 4 p.m. and they're serving breakfast and lunch. So it's real easy to encourage people to go there."

Valadez said some people aren't sure where they need to go.

"Every person is different," Valadez said. "But every once in awhile, a lot of folks aren't aware of the resources available to them."

The main goal is to reduce crime that sometimes could be committed down the road.

"People who are doing trespassing, some of those things," Prater said. "Instead of just showing up and arresting someone for trespassing and throwing them in jail it's not going to do any good. For one, it's costing the city money to put people in jail."

The officers said they have noticed it getting safer in the city, for the homeless and, from 2015 to 2016, a 12-percent drop was reported in the chronically homeless.

"Just bridging that gap between the homeless community and police officers helps a lot," Valadez said.

The officers said they will try to make 15 contacts a day.

They said it's modeled after a program in Colorado Springs, but they don't know of any other local agencies that are doing it.

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