PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Portland police officers are taking an active role in getting the city’s homeless off the streets, and it starts with a trip to the DMV.
Officers Tim Engstrom and Ryan Engweiler are the faces of the police bureau’s outreach program, and they drive around the city having conversations with people living on the streets.
“If we don’t have that good rapport, nothing will work. They won’t trust us that we actually have a housing program. They won’t trust us that we actually can get them ID,” Engweiler said.
The ID part of the equation is a recent development. Toward the beginning of the year, the two officers started asking people they encounter if they have a valid Oregon ID, without which it’s much more difficult to secure housing.
If the answer is no, the officers offer to take the person to the Department of Motor Vehicles and walk them through the process of getting one.
“We’ll give people a ride to DMV, do whatever we can. We’ll meet there, and we’ll notarize the things right then and there, we’re both notaries. So we can do everything there, one stop shop,” said Engstrom.
The officers carry forms that help them confirm a person’s identity and will wait with them at the DMV, which they recently did for Ricky Grijalda, who said he hasn’t had an identification card in 13 years.
“My goal is to get off the streets. Me and my wife. You know? That’s what I want. I don’t like being out here. I hate it,” Grijalda said.
Along with their successes, there are setbacks. Some people who do secure housing end up losing it for one reason or another, and others are resistant to leaving the streets.
“A lot of them have been on the street for years and years, and this is all they know,” Engweiler said.
But over the past couple of years doing outreach work, the officers have learned persistence yields results, and in just the past calendar year, have helped 50 people find housing.
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