New pilot in Hollywood and Venice will divert nonviolent 9-1-1 calls pertaining to homelessness to unarmed outreach teams
LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced the launch of the Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) pilot — a first-of-its-kind program that will divert nonviolent 9-1-1 calls related to homelessness away from law enforcement to trained, unarmed professionals.
“There’s a lot of support around the idea of removing police officers from nonviolent response, and Los Angeles is harnessing that energy to create a model that strengthens the human bonds that are essential to public safety and seeks to help, not punish, our most vulnerable Angelenos,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “CIRCLE will ensure that our unhoused neighbors are met with the compassion and care they deserve, and is another step in the direction toward our ultimate goal: ending homelessness in Los Angeles.”
In his Justice budget for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year, Mayor Garcetti made the City’s largest-ever investment to confront the homelessness crisis. This nearly $1 billion commitment includes funding for new solutions to reimagine public safety. The CIRCLE program, a core tenant of this new approach, will provide an unarmed response to non-emergency 9-1-1 calls involving people experiencing homelessness (PEH).
Currently, the program has embedded teams deployed in Hollywood and Venice to foster relationships with people experiencing homelessness. Starting next month, the crisis response teams will be available 24/7 to respond to PEH-related non-emergency calls from LAPD’s 911 system and the police non-emergency number. In addition, proactive embedded response teams will be deployed during the day, seven days a week, in areas of high need within the two pilot communities. The teams will continue to build a rapport with the unhoused community, conduct light sanitation work, de-escalate situations as they arise, and create referrals to local service providers. CIRCLE response staff will not be armed or perform any law enforcement duties.
CIRCLE teams are comprised of one outreach worker, one mental health clinician or licensed behavioral health clinician, and one community ambassador. Venice and Hollywood were selected as the pilot areas because of the high concentration of PEH and high volume of calls for service.
“You couldn’t have a clearer example of this country lacking a robust social safety net than when people with guns show up to respond to a non-violent, mental health crisis,” said City Council President Nury Martinez. “In 2020 elected officials were called upon by Angelenos to re-evaluate our current approach to public safety and the LA City Council met that challenge head on by introducing an unarmed crisis response program. I’m happy to see the City building upon this commitment by launching the CIRCLE pilot program for those experiencing homelessness.”
“It’s imperative that we continue to create alternative approaches to address our homelessness crisis,” said Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “This approach aligns more appropriate responses to specific situations to optimize outcomes while also ensuring that our public safety resources are responding to emergency incidents efficiently.”
“With the launch of the CIRCLE pilot program, we have a real opportunity to show everyone that Los Angeles can be a model for a human and effective solution to the nation’s homelessness crisis,” said Councilmember Raman. “By reimagining public safety and providing an alternative response to non-emergency 911 calls that focuses on trained crisis responders, mental health professionals, and outreach workers, we are taking a huge step toward building a better, more compassionate city.”
"We are actively re-examining and updating how we handle the delivery of health services, especially to people who are not only experiencing homelessness, but who are also grappling with mental health and substance abuse issues," said Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell. "The CIRCLE program will help us meet people where they are and allow practitioners to thoughtfully respond to people's complex needs, without compromising public safety."
The City conducted an extensive RFP process to select a service provider for the program and selected Urban Alchemy, a Los Angeles-based organization that also runs the City’s mobile shower and restroom program and several of its interim housing facilities.
“Urban Alchemy is proud to be a partner with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles to redesign the City's emergency response system to more appropriately and compassionately respond to people experiencing homelessness,” said Lena Miller, CEO of Urban Alchemy. “CIRCLE leverages the hard earned wisdom and emotional intelligence of practitioners who have life experience that enables them to unflinchingly engage individuals who are in the throes of anger, distress, despair, or a psychotic break to de-escalate, calm, and ultimately heal.”
Since taking office, Mayor Garcetti has acted with unprecedented urgency to confront the homlessness and housing crisis — from expanding the homelessness budget to nearly 100 times what it was eight years ago, to launching the A Bridge Home shelter program, which has housed nearly 4,000 distinct residents while HHH-funded projects are built. To date, the City of Los Angeles has completed 42 affordable and supportive housing projects with over 2,700 units in operation, 16 of which are HHH projects with more than 1,000 units. There are an additional 60 projects with more than 3,800 units currently under construction.
At the beginning of his administration, Mayor Garcetti set an ambitious goal to permit 100,000 new housing units and 10,000 new affordable units by 2021. Since 2013, Los Angeles has permitted over 136,000 new units of housing and permitted or preserved over 16,000 units of affordable housing.
To view infographics from the press conference, click here.