Best ways security can work with homelessness on your property
A sad but real issue facing our society
It's a problem no one wants to discuss or in many ways even deal with. Homeless has always been an issue for downtown areas and business but as we move into the post pandemic area the issue has exploded into other parts of cities and even the suburbs. What is frustrating for many is this is a massive problem that frankly not even municipal governments can fix, let alone your business.
Homeless can cause intentional or unintentional damage to your facility, Harass customers and employees and cause a number of liability issues. Ignoring the issue can cause more problems. All this is difficult to discuss and while you should be compassionate to the situation, you do have to protect your business and property.
At Praetoria we have seen an increase in our outlying business and an increased call for assistance. With homeless numbers so prevalent in Tulsa., more and more interactions between transient populations and security officers at the public and private-sector facilities they protect have the capacity to turn violent. Security officers need to pay attention to the behavioral, legal, and procedural issues to deal with this potentially high-risk population. This also needs to be met with compassion as well. It should be noted that interactions with homeless should be met with extreme caution. As countless interactions with citizens while seemingly innocuous end in an altercation of some type. While you feel you can handle the situation often times injuries and liabilities can arise. This is why Praetoria takes time for safety training for everyone involved.
Always engage with compassion and caution
Security officers usually encounter homeless people inside or along the perimeter of their posts, including public buildings, like libraries, courthouses, and service or social services centers; hospitals, mental health facilities, and substance abuse treatment clinics; malls and retail stores; and in abandoned buildings or new construction sites. Homeless advocacy groups suggest that about 80 percent of homeless people are mostly docile, nonviolent, and usually cooperative. They are used to being told to “move along,” throughout their day and after contacts with business owners, security officers, and the police. There is a smaller part, the remaining 20 percent, who can be predatory, confrontational, violent, and fight with other homeless people, people passing by, store or government employees, security officers, or even responding police. This percentage of the homeless is also more likely to steal merchandise, panhandle aggressively to the point of a near-strong-arm robbery scenario, or vandalize or damage their surroundings.
Security officers need to carefully differentiate which of these two populations they’re dealing with and be ready to call police for the illegal activities they see during these encounters. They need to remind themselves not to touch these people or their belongings, which may be all they have, and to use space and distance as they assess mental health and substance abuse concerns. Of course, not all mentally ill people are dangerous, but any street person who is a danger to himself or herself, or others, or gravely disabled, should require security officers to call police. And while some substance abusers can control their behavior while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, many cannot, and this should require a police call as well.
Security officers can benefit by being assertively polite, vigilant, consistent, and patient with the homeless people they encounter on their rounds. This includes noting all interactions with the homeless person(s) in daily logs, incident reports, and “pass-down” activities.
Praetoria takes the extra step of training our employees in homelessness interactions and communication tactics that reduce stress, altercations, repeat visits and liabilities. A security officer who job is to monitor for all types of incidents, including homeless interactions is valuable for the safety of your staff, reducing damage whether intentional or unintentional, and reducing liability from injury on your premises. If your business is dealing with any of these issues praetoria Security can help with a free conversation and if you like a proposal for staffing.