CLAYTON, MO - Some local police officers are keeping backpacks in their patrol vehicles.
And they’re hoping the “extra baggage” makes a difference.
The new initiative was launched as an outreach effort to help those who are homeless.
“The objective is to show some compassion,” said Mark Smith, Clayton Interim Police.
Officers will offer the backpacks to homeless men and women they encounter. The backpacks are filled with several items, including a hat, socks, gloves, a water bottle, and tissues.
Clayton Police report that they see homeless people on a daily business in the city’s central district.
“Typically, the calls come in as trespassing. Or loitering. Sometimes peace disturbance. Sometimes they have mental health problems. And there’s a mental health crisis involved,” said Chief Smith.
The backpacks contain material items. But they are representative of a larger effort.
“That helps open the dialogue,” said Dr. Yusef Scoggin.
Scoggin is the Director of St. Louis County’s Office of Family and Community Services.
His office, a division of the county’s Department of Human Services, works to provide a continuum of care through dozens of member organizations that address homeless needs in the county and region.
He said oftentimes, authorities see individuals who are reluctant to accept help.
“Sometimes, engaging people can be challenging for some. And so, coming with open arms, engaging them with some sort of resource, is helpful in that dialogue,” said Scoggin. “[It’s a] great example of connecting law enforcement with community, and religious organizations that are intent on serving those who are homeless and in need.”
Ultimately, the goal is to help homeless people find permanent solutions, which could include shelter and social services.
A backpack, he agreed, is a good first step.
“It serves as an olive branch to engage with those who are in need. Who really need the services.”
Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton partnered with Clayton Police for the initiative. On a recent afternoon, volunteers of all ages filled backpacks in the department’s conference room.
“This is just reaching out to say, we care. And we’re here if you need us,” said Randy Mayfield, Pastor of Missions and Outreach. “A lot of our folks went out and shopped, and bought stuff.”
Filled with Care: Clayton police offer backpacks to homeless The idea for the backpacks came from Minnesota State Police. To date, thirty backpacks have been filled. If more is needed, Central Presbyterian Church said it will step in to assist.