Most likely both cops and homeless folks -- and local businesses -- will be heaving great sighs of relief as a new addition to the Eureka Police Department adjusts to her duties.
EPD Chief Garr Nielsen hired Pamlyn Millsap on March 17 to serve as the department's homeless liaison, the EPD announced in a news release today. Officially Millsap, who was Humboldt County Mental Health's homeless coordinator for 19 years prior to this, will be a Police Services Officer. It's an existing, non-sworn officer position, said Sgt. Steve Watson on Tuesday. But Millsap's duties will be brand new.
In brief, she is assigned to help homeless people, especially chronic ones who may be dealing with mental health issues and/or substance abuse, get off the streets. Her duties will include connecting them to food, clothing and shelter; homeless services providers; family and friends (including helping them get home through the Transportation Assistance Program); and treatment and transition programs.
Watson said Millsap's presence will reduce the number of individual contacts between officers and homeless people, freeing them up to deal with larger problems in the community. Watson couldn't say what percentage of an officer's time is consumed by handling homeless-related issues and crimes, but only that it is "significant."
Millsap has worked with law enforcement before, starting in 1985 as a liasion to victims in the Victim Witness program. In 1989 she began working in the mental health field. Currently she works part-time as a substance abuse counselor with the HART program. Though she recently retired from the county mental health division, she said in an e-mail to her new fellow EPDers that her "retirement plans flew right out the window" when Chief Nielsen offered her the new job as homeless liason. She wrote:
"I have a long history of working side by side with EPD to help transition the homeless off the streets. I would never have been able to do my job in the past without the support of law enforcement."