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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

Reaching the Homeless

MPD’s Karen Dubis helping those in need

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Since initiating its Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T.) in 2010, the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) has helped more than 30 homeless individuals transition into permanent or temporary housing through ongoing partnerships with community organizations. Lieutenant Karen Dubis, a 34-year veteran of the force, maintains that her time leading H.O.T. officers has prompted some of her most enlightening on-duty experiences and promises that her dedicated staff will continue to “break down the wall of silence to better reach Milwaukee’s homeless population.”

How did the Milwaukee H.O.T. program begin?

The Homeless Outreach Team was inspired by Captain Stephen Basting and myself. We worked in District 1 and there were issues that were going on that included the downtown area. One of the issues we wanted to address was our homeless population, so I (completed) some training in Arlington, Texas, and [attended] the Problem-Oriented Policing Conference in Colorado Springs and brought some of their ideas back to Milwaukee.

The H.O.T. program has expanded beyond District 1?

We are in District 1 and have expanded to District 2.  However, our outreach officers go anywhere in the city. They will take calls from other districts if there is some situation that our H.O.T. officers can better address.

Do H.O.T. officers receive special training?

Almost all of the officers are Crisis Intervention Team officers. They receive 40 hours of special training to work with people with serious mental illness. They also receive on-the-job training from other H.O.T. officers.

Which community agencies and organizations are you partnered with?

Repairers of the Breach, The Cathedral Center, Salvation Army, Community Advocates Inc., The Guest House, Hope House of Milwaukee and the Crisis Resource Center. The Cathedral Center has been one of our greatest partners in respect to homeless women. By making partnerships with the community regarding homelessness, we are able to call on our community partners and link up a homeless person with services that he/she may need. Another important part of the H.O.T. team is that we are reaching out to the homeless and are finding out what their needs are. We are trying to make a connection with them because every homeless person has his/her own story on how they became homeless. It has been quite an eye-opening experience in education.

How would you describe Milwaukee’s homeless population?

We are on some really hard times right now and I think that our homeless population is increasing and it’s tough. All I can say is that with increased homelessness, services are also decreasing.

What do you like most about your job?

I can’t tell you how incredible it is to work with officers who care and officers who take extraordinary initiative when trying to help someone who is homeless. Many people come on the job because they want to help people and, after 34 years, I can say that I am doing that in a fabulous way.
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