Ask Capt. Oliveira: How to Handle the Homeless

Homeless encampment near Main Street bridge and Northgate Boulevard, adjacent to Steelhead Creek in 2015. / Photo: M. Laver

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Dear Reader,

Having received three separate inquiries related to homeless issues, I reached out to our department expert, Bridgette Dean LCSW, PPSC, to help answer your questions. Bridgette is the Police Social Services Administrator here at the Sacramento Police Department. Bridgette manages our Impact Team and Mental Health Unit. For more information on these dedicated teams, visit If you have additional questions or need more information you can always contact me or Bridgette at [email protected].

“I have been a Natomas resident for over 20 years, and over the past year I have seen a significant increase in the number of homeless people setting up homeless camps in our neighborhoods. What is the plan to combat these people moving in so close to our homes and schools? What are the police able to do?”
—Tammy Black

Homelessness has been increasing. Please check out this press release about the Sacramento County Point in Time Homeless Count

Homelessness is a community issue that is impacting all communities within our state and throughout our nation. This is not only a Sacramento County problem. There are numerous social service agencies, both public and non-profit, that are designed to help with the homeless problem.

The Sacramento Police Department is here to deal with crimes of all types, no matter who commits them. When a person wants to report an emergency they should call 911. If there are non-emergency crimes that need to be reported, then the number to call is (916) 808-5471.

The City of Sacramento has a Municipal Code regarding illegal camping on public lands, however, this law has been largely unenforceable since September, 2018 with the Boise Decision.

The Sacramento Police Department deploys the Impact Team to help deal with homeless related issues beyond the day to day calls that patrol responds too. The Impact Team consists of six police officers and one sergeant to cover the entire 100 square miles of City. The public can report camps on 311, either by calling, using the app, or using the website We then try to make contact with those experiencing homelessness and, when possible, connect them to resources that may help them get out of homelessness. We also facilitate the clean-up of those areas. We average about 650 complaints of homeless sites per month through 311.

Trash removal is important to our job. We have access to heavy equipment such as a “claw” and a “rear loader” from the Solid Waste division of the Department of Public Works. We also have partnerships with the Sheriff’s Work Project and the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps to help pick up litter for large camps. In addition, we recently began a new partnership with a local company to mitigate small areas of trash throughout the city. This cleanup crew is embedded with our Impact Team.

“Living in Natomas and working in downtown Sacramento, I encounter people who I think are homeless on a daily basis. What is the best way to help a person who appears homeless and is asking for help? Are there public resources I can connect them with? When I encounter a person who appears homeless and also not in their right mind (which happens near my workplace at least once a week), what is the best action to take to help them and in the interest of personal and public safety? Wishing to help in the best way possible.” —Dani Loebs

Throughout Sacramento there is a range of services available for individuals experiencing homelessness. Many of those experiencing homelessness are engaged with these services currently or have received support from providers in the past. 211 is an information line that provides access to multiple services throughout the region 211 includes contact information for county, city, faith based, community based and non -profit organizations that cover a wide range of resources including food, housing and mental health services.

I encourage individuals in the community who wish to provide support or help to those who are experiencing homelessness to consider donating to one of the many service providers or non-profit agencies directly. These organizations typically use funds to provide direct outreach and services to homeless individuals and many have trained staff that can provide assessments and connect them to additional resources.

If you see or come across any situation where you believe someone needs immediate help, please call 911. For non-emergency situations you can contact our non-emergency line at (916) 808-5471. Our patrol officers can refer calls for service to the Mental Health Unit or the Impact Team if further assistance or resources are needed.

“A few times now I have attempted to go to the North Natomas Community Park off North Bend with my toddler, only to arrive and find a homeless individual sleeping within the park structure. This obviously deters me from using the park in that moment. I have called non-emergency police to report it, and when they asked if I wanted to be notified when they have taken care of it, I have said yes but receive no notification. I understand this might not be a top priority but what else can I do in these situations? The park is right next to a school and it quite disappointing walking there and not being able to utilize it. On top of that, my last time there I have found a book of matches, as well as a condom wrapper and a condom on the park grounds. Are these parks at all monitored?” —Allison Moser

You are doing the right thing by calling the non-emergency line (916) 808-5471 when you see this. Adults are not allowed in children’s play areas without a child in City Parks.

Like an emergency room, higher crimes and potential for persons to be injured are treated more quickly than, say, a suspicious person. Sometimes there will be almost no wait, sometimes the wait may be extended significantly. When you call you can ask for the call number (it will start with a 20 then more numbers behind it). If you don’t get a call back, you can call the non-emergency number and request that information or to speak with the Sergeant on duty. I’d explain that you requested a call back, did not receive one, and would like to know more about the outcome of the incident. You may also reach out to Park Ranger Services with your concerns. You can find more information at Long term, it would be helpful to know what time of day this is occurring. The Impact Team can work with Park Rangers and patrol towards a resolution of this issue. I can be reached at [email protected].

—Capt. Oliveira

Capt. Steve Oliveira oversees the Sacramento Police Dept.’s north-area command, which includes Natomas. To submit your questions to Capt. Oliveira, send an email to [email protected] with “Ask Capt. Oliveira” in the subject line.

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