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Law Enforcement Response to Homelessness: Identifying High-Priority Needs to Improve Law Enforcement Strategies for Addressing Homelessness

NCJ Number
Date Published
32 pages

This report covers the purpose, proceedings, and outcomes of an NIJ-funded workshop of law enforcement practitioners and researchers convened to discuss current law enforcement responses to homelessness and identify the highest priority needs for support and improvement of existing efforts.


Four major themes were identified: 1) common factors underlying homelessness that law enforcement can address; 2) the need to address homelessness and health/wellness as intertwined issues; 3) the collaboration of stakeholders across governments, the private sector, and the community; and 4) the acquisition and sharing of data needed to understand the nature and scope of homelessness in each jurisdiction, as well as the effectiveness of efforts to address it. One of the key findings of the workshop is that law enforcement agencies are not equipped with the authority or resources to respond effectively to homelessness; however, law enforcement officers’ direct contact and interaction with homeless people makes them important sources of information and leadership in a collaborative community effort to understand and respond effectively to the needs of homeless people. The workshop participants developed 13 recommendations for a collaborative community response to homelessness. Four areas for research on homelessness and the community response to it are outlined.

Date Published: January 1, 2020