Homelessness is a Condition, Not a Crime!
The Thousand Oaks Police Department 's homeless outreach program works closely with local stakeholder and service providers. It is focused on four key areas, all of which connect the person experiencing homelessness with resources to help build self-sufficiency.
Police conduct weekly outreach with Lutheran Social Services, Ventura County Behavioral Health, Harbor House and other organizations. The focus is on reaching the most vulnerable people, providing information and encouraging them to accept help.
While homelessness and panhandling are not illegal, other activities like drinking alcohol in public, public urination, illegal camping and trespassing are enforced and may result in a warning, citation or arrest. Local police enforce all applicable laws, with the ultimate goal of encouraging homeless individuals to move toward self-sufficiency.
Campsite clean-up is a safety and public health issue that is taken seriously by local police. The law requires that most camps receive a seven-day notice before they can be cleaned up. Police have an active relationship with Thousand Oaks Public Works, Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) and Caltrans to ensure sites are cleaned up as soon as legally allowed. As with other outreach, police make every effort to ensure campers are aware of local and regional resources.
Education: Addressing the challenges of homelessness in our community requires that public agencies, non-profits and residents understand homelessness and work together. Police continue to educate the public about the issue, how to help, and how handouts can keep people from getting long-term support.
Questions or concerns about the homeless can be directed to:
SENIOR DEPUTY JUAN CORDOVA
What’s being done about the Thousand Oaks’ homeless population?
Q: Why doesn’t the city do something about homelessness?
A: There are many homeless services available in the City of Thousand Oaks. In order for a person to benefit from those services, they have to agree to accept them. Homeless or mentally ill people have the same rights as any other citizen. As long as they are not a danger to themselves or others, they can choose to refuse services and live a non-traditional lifestyle.
In most cases, for every citizen who wants the city to do something about the homeless problem, there is another citizen who is willing to provide that homeless person with short term money or food which only enables the homeless person’s ability to refuse true life-changing, long-term services.
Q: Why isn’t the Thousand Oaks Police Department arresting that person on the corner?
A: The Thousand Oaks Police Department enforces laws where applicable; however, homelessness in itself is not a crime. In addition, recent court cases have made it more difficult to enforce laws traditionally used in homeless incidents such as living out of a vehicle and illegal camping. In addition, propositions recently approved by California voters have either decriminalized or minimized narcotics offenses. In many cases, where a person would have gone to jail in the past, they are either given a citation or there is simply no violation that exists anymore.
As a community, we will not arrest our way out of this problem. Long term solutions require the cooperation of all stakeholders following a comprehensive plan and the cooperation of citizens to not enable a homeless lifestyle by providing them with short term food and money.
Q: Can’t you arrest them for littering?
A: Littering is an infraction which only results in the issuance of a citation. The homeless person you are concerned about may be receiving citations for littering, but with an inability to pay for the citation, and the penalty is minimal.
Q: Can’t you arrest them for trespassing?
A: Yes, as long as a violation is present. Trespassing laws in California are very complex and often times there is no violation where one would typically think a violation exists. Almost all trespassing laws in California are misdemeanors which typically results in a citation or a very brief stay in jail.
Q: I have seen a homeless encampment; can’t the police do anything about that?
A: Yes, homeless encampments can cause a variety of problems, especially with trash and sanitation. In many of the locations the city’s landscape workers, Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA), Cal-Trans, or Ventura County Public Works, work with the Thousand Oaks Police Department to clean these areas shortly after they are discovered. Homeless individuals are warned to leave, and given a notice to vacate the property, and are provided with information to homeless services available. In some cases, they remain at the camp despite the warning. Those previously warned are cited for illegal camping and the matter is turned over to the Thousand Oaks City Attorney or the District Attorney (depending on the jurisdiction) for processing.
In some cases, encampments are found on private property. See above trespassing question for information.
Panhandling / Money Given to Homeless:
Q: Why shouldn’t I give money to someone on the street who needs it?
A: There are several reasons people should not give money to a homeless person. I’ve listed them below:
- Thousand Oaks homeless population have a variety of services offered to them through Thousand Oaks based Lutheran Social Services, Ventura County Behavioral Health, Harbor House, Salvation Army and other organizations.
- Many times, the money that is given to a panhandling homeless individual can be used to aid addiction, such as drugs or alcohol. In addition, some homeless individuals may already be accepting monthly benefit checks. Each evening, Thousand Oaks homeless individuals are offered a meal at pre-designated local churches. In the winter months, they are also offered shelter for the evening. It is a choice whether they want to partake in the meal or shelter programs.
Thousand Oaks Outreach:
- Remember that weekly homeless outreaches are conducted with the Thousand Oaks Police Department’s Vulnerable Population’s Officer, Lutheran Social Services, Harbor House, Ventura County Behavioral Health, and Salvation Army. All of these services provide referral programs for a variety of services. These services include: case managers, emergency shelter services, housing, medical services, job/life skills training, benefit application assistance, crisis intervention, Military Veteran services, family reunification, Drug/Alcohol rehabilitation and counseling, and Mental Health recovery.
- All homeless individuals that the police come in contact with are offered information regarding homeless services that are provided by the city of Thousand Oaks. Many times, homeless individuals will refuse to accept these services despite their availability.
Give/Volunteer to Charity Instead:
- Money that people give to homeless individuals, who panhandle on the street, can be better served for the services that provide food, clothing, shelters/housing, or drug/alcohol/mental health rehabilitation (and other services described above). These are all services that panhandler has access to. There are a variety of nonprofit organizations that can use your donation to provide services for the homeless, or a worthy charity of your choosing. Some of these organizations can use caring citizens as volunteers as well. Either way, you will make a difference in assisting the Thousand Oaks homeless population.
Some of the Thousand Oaks based outreach services that are in need of donations see list below:
For more ideas for donations, visit Thousand Oaks City website: