Businesses/Residents Interacting with Homeless Individuals
As a business owner or resident, you are responsible for the zoning or code violations that occur on your property. These resources are to help you navigate through potential concerns and take a proactive approach in addressing your issues successfully.
Some proactive efforts include posting "No Trespassing" signs on your property, securing trash enclosures, reducing foliage that may be used to conceal people or property, installing additional lighting, increasing presence or implementing private security measures. The City discourages giving money directly to panhandles and encourages donations to programs that offer services to assist people experiencing homelessness.
Panhandling is not illegal. The First Amendment generally protects the right for a person to ask another person for money in a public location. It is unlawful for any person to engage in abusive solicitation by blocking passage, threatening harm, using offensive language or touching without consent. Action by the City Council has authorized signage be posted to educate the community on the benefit of providing financial assistance to local organizations that provide assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness, in lieu of giving directly to those who are panhandling.
In order for the police to enforce trespassing laws, they must have permission from the property owner or manager. The offender must also be informed that they are trespassing and refuse to leave before any enforcement action may be taken.
Tips for Businesses
Addressing Disruptive Behavior
If a patron experiencing homelessness walks into your business and starts displaying disruptive behavior, remain calm. While keeping a respectable distance, assess the situation by asking the individual normal questions, such as "May I help you?" If possible, lead the individual outside by walking and politely talking. If their disruptive behavior continues, you may respectfully ask them to leave your business. If they refuse to leave, inform them that you will be contacting the police for assistance. Do not call the police in front the individual. If possible, step away or have someone else contact the Police Department at 949-644-3681.
When Disruptive Behavior Escalates
Call 911. Safety is always the priority. It is important for all businesses to have a safety plan in place for any emergency situation. Having code phrases for your employees such as, "Can you please call the janitor?" are helpful in these situations. If the safety threat continues, retreat to a safe space with your employees and customers until the police arrives.