Community and Wheat Ridge police team up to ‘make a difference in someone’s life’

Police department involved with PIT for third year

Posted 2/6/19

In Wheat Ridge, 16 people — from sundown on Jan. 28 to sundown on Jan. 29 — perused the community to conduct an annual Point in Time survey. “It’s important to have an accurate count of what …

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Community and Wheat Ridge police team up to ‘make a difference in someone’s life’

Police department involved with PIT for third year

Posted

In Wheat Ridge, 16 people — from sundown on Jan. 28 to sundown on Jan. 29 — perused the community to conduct an annual Point in Time survey.

“It’s important to have an accurate count of what homelessness looks like in our community,” said Sgt. Jamie Watson, “so we can more effectively serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness.”

While the Wheat Ridge Police Department has always had some involvement with the survey, Watson said, this is the third year for it to be involved at this level.

For the past three years, Watson led the effort to organize volunteers to conduct the survey and hand out sack lunches and socks to the people experiencing homelessness that they encounter.

“To me, it’s a great opportunity for our officers and community members to team up and help make a difference in someone’s life,” Watson said.

It’s important to be involved with the community, and the Wheat Ridge Police Department offers a lot of volunteer opportunities for its employees, said Amanda Schweda and Jen Clay who both are records management specialists for the Wheat Ridge Police Department.

“I like the camaraderie you get from doing these types of volunteer activities with your coworkers,” Clay said. “And any time you can lend a helping hand, it’s for the better good.”

Schweda agreed.

“Especially working on the police side,” Schweda said. Volunteering “makes things more personable for the community and provides a face for the department. There needs to be more of the positive interaction with the community, and this is a great way to accomplish that.”

Seven police department volunteers were trained to conduct the survey and they were paired with an officer on Jan. 28 to conduct the survey that evening.

Wheat Ridge police officers typically encounter people experiencing homelessness daily, but it was “tough go trying to find people” on Jan. 28, said Officer Brian Gross, one of the officers participating in the PIT survey. He believed this was partly because of the cold weather that night, and guessed that most had found shelter somewhere other than the streets.

However, Gross and his PIT volunteer did encounter two people who accepted the sack lunch and participated in the survey, he said.

“We do care about the populations we serve,” Gross said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of being able to help the homeless population, rather than just telling them to move along.”

Earlier that day, Watson; Judy Maxfield, a Jeffco resident who is retired and has been volunteering with the Wheat Ridge Police Department since 2014; Schweda; and Clay spent part of the afternoon making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to pack in the sack lunches along with an orange and other snacks.

“You’ve gotta give back to your community,” Maxfield said. And “I enjoy working with the people who are experiencing homelessness because you learn a lot. Homelessness is not just about not wanting to work — it’s about surviving an unfortunate event in their life.”

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