There’s no doubt that today’s police officers have that little something extra that allows them to dash toward danger while the vast majority of us might retreat from a threatening situation.
But that special bravery gene is also bolstered by six coordinated attributes that at least in part may be absent in the masses: Communication skills, compassion and empathy, integrity, negotiation skills, eagerness to learn and mental agility.
All of these are seamlessly knitted together every time an officer goes out on patrol – and probably even when off duty.
These attributes certainly are evident in Newport Beach police officer Cynthia Carter, the Newport Beach Police Department’s newly assigned Homeless Liaison Officer, who on a daily basis checks on, and helps, the roughly 64 homeless persons who live within Newport’s borders. In all of Orange County, according to the most recent count, there are 6,860 homeless—2,899 sheltered, 2,899 unsheltered. These numbers are in constant flux.
Of her work, Police Chief Jon Lewis said, “We are very proud of all that Officer Carter has been doing to end homelessness in our City. It takes a very special person to do this important work and do it well. Officer Carter is one of those rare individuals.”
Officer Carter took the time on her days off to answer questions posed to her about her new assignment.
Q: What is your history in Law Enforcement?
A: I have been a police officer for approximately eight and a half years. I began my career in law enforcement as a police officer with the City of Santa Barbara. I lateraled to the Newport Beach Police Department in 2015. In May of 2020, I was blessed to be selected as the Homeless Liaison Officer, a special assignment within the department.
Q: How would you explain your new responsibilities?
A: As the Homeless Liaison Officer, I work directly with people experiencing homelessness who reside in the City of Newport Beach. Essentially, my job is centralized around linking that population to outside resources which include, but are not limited to: medical care, mental health assessments and treatment, housing opportunities (both shelters and permanent supportive housing), facilitating family reunifications and entry into addiction/recovery programs. With these linkages, my goal is to help each person experiencing homelessness find themselves in a healthier and more sustainable way of life.
Q: Do you work with other agencies?
A: As an added resource, the City of Newport Beach also contracts with CityNet, a non-profit organization which specializes in homeless outreach, case management, housing navigation and bridge-housing, in an effort to end street-level homelessness. I have a close relationship with our CityNet case managers, and I am very thankful for the level of service they provide and the many positive outcomes they have facilitated within our homeless population.
Q: What causes homelessness?
A: Homelessness is a complex issue. Some people find themselves homeless due to their mental illness, some are homeless due to their addiction (both to alcohol and/or drugs), some become homeless due to financial hardship, others are homeless because of an unexpected life event (tragedy) and some are homeless due to a combination of those examples.
Q: Can homelessness be solved? What is your approach?
A: Homelessness is increasing, not only citywide, but county and statewide. Within the City of Newport Beach, we find some areas are more concentrated with the homeless population than others. Our approach recognizes that homelessness cannot be solved through enforcement alone. We strive to find a healthy and respectful balance between enforcement and utilizing outreach and resource connections that encourage and provide opportunities for a healthier and more sustainable life.
Q: What is the city doing about the situation?
A: Recently, the Newport Beach City Council unanimously voted to enter into a regional partnership with the City of Costa Mesa to secure the use of 20 shelter beds in their new facility. The new shelter is scheduled to open in April 2021. While having access to a shelter is a great tool to help stabilize our vulnerable homeless population, it is also important to note that it will not eradicate homelessness in Newport Beach. Steps are being taken, by both the City of Newport Beach and the County of Orange, to build new affordable and permanent supportive housing for the homeless population. It is my belief that these developments will positively impact our homeless population.”