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Leon Co. Sheriff’s Office launches homeless outreach team

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 3:13 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Day one of patrol for the homeless outreach team of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office gave deputies the first opportunity to “gain trust” and “build a relationship” with the county’s homeless population.

“The difference between what we do and what patrol would do is patrol would get out and talk with a subject, deal with an issue and move on,” said Deputy Bernie Hernandez, a member of the Homeless Outreach Street Team with the sheriff’s office. “Me and my partner will be able to do follow-up.”

The team, made up of Hernandez and Deputy Paul Pacchioli, is responsible for forming a rapport with the homeless population and work to get them access to services like substance abuse treatment, housing, mental health or whatever the person is in need of.

“We have had specialized training in this and we went to Broward County and saw how they did it, so we’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Hernandez said.

Pacchioli said the goal is to eliminate homelessness in Leon County and offer a different perspective to the homeless about the function of law enforcement.

“We’re talking with them and having a conversation and letting them know that we’re here to help,” Pacchioli said. “How can we help you get the services, how can we help get the services to you. Because they may not know the resources that are available.”

The deputies will be patrolling throughout the county at hot spots they know to be homeless campgrounds on the lookout for people to help.

“There is the law aspect for us. You can’t steal, you can’t break the law, trespassing, that we will enforce,” Pacchioli said.

The team also looks to educate business owners on what they can and can’t do in regards to handling the homeless people that may be near their businesses.

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