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BART Hires Employee To Seek Out Homeless, Find Them Help

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A BART train at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco. (CBS)

A BART train at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— The homeless often make their way to Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, platforms and trains, but the agency has taken steps to reach out to them by hiring a crisis intervention coordinator and mental health liaison.

Armando Sandoval’s full-time job is outreach to the less fortunate that frequent the system. He said dealing with homeless issues at BART is complex; the transit system spans four counties requiring collaboration.

Sometimes there are crimes in multiple jurisdictions so Sandoval works to keep the various agencies, especially the courts informed.

“Instead of there being light sentences in all four counties, how can we combine these sentences to get them some mandated services?” he asks.

Many homeless have both mental health and addiction issues Sandoval said. “The majority of these folks that we come into contact with, we’ve come into contact with before,” Sandoval said.

BART stations don’t have sit-lie signage, but police do clear public corridors though the homeless reappear during the day.

“For the most part they’re not bothering anybody,” Sandoval said. “But people will feel offended like, ‘Why are these people here; the smells, the alcohol, the garbage’?”

Sandoval explained that these are people who often walk by night and sleep by day.

“They’re beat during the daytime, so sleep time is between eight in the morning and noon,” he said.

A common reaction by BART passengers is to call about the homeless on trains, but Sandoval said they can’t simply assume that they’re not paying customers. “It’s a sensitive contact,” he explains.

Sandoval paused during the interview to ask a woman if she made it to her appointment. “This young lady over here, she’s somebody we tried helping out this morning.”

The woman, Sandoval said is on methadone, is in what he calls “survival mode. She is later seen trying to sell fake BART tickets.

Getting services to the homeless is the end goal, but it sometimes proves elusive. Sandoval and his collaborators seem to be taking it one day at a time, in similar fashion to the recovering addicts he helps through his outreach.

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