CONCORD (CBS SF) — A new team of overnight workers is trying to help homeless people who end up sleeping on BART trains or in stations because they have nowhere else to go.
The team is based in Contra Costa County, where two of BART’s five lines begin or end. The county workers are working with the BART police department to connect homeless people with clean beds and mental health services.
Workers are especially focused on the end of line stations in Richmond and Antioch, according to Armando Sandoval, crisis intervention coordinator and community outreach liaison for the BART Police Department.
Frequent BART riders say it’s common to see people sleeping on trains or in the stations.
“It’s become somewhat of an expectation for most people I think and it’s not something out of the ordinary to see,” said Elizabeth Butler, who often rides BART in Contra Costa County.
“It’s just uncomfortable and it starts to wear on you after a while,” said Keri Carpenter, who commutes from the Orinda station.
Contra Costa County’s Coordinated Outreach, Referral and Engagement team has already been working to help homeless people at BART stations during the daytime hours but this is the first time CORE outreach workers have been focused on BART stations overnight, according to BART officials.
“Right now what happens at night is our employees are basically faced with having to kick people out of the system and that can be confrontational, sometimes violent, certainly uncomfortable,” said BART spokesperson, Alicia Trost.
In the morning, Trost said, train operators must deal with a different issue.
“We know, right when the doors of BART open, that homeless people are coming in, they’re getting on the train and they’re sleeping for the morning commute,” Trost told KPIX 5’s Katie Nielsen.
“Those are key times because they’re typically when individuals are entering the BART system at the start of the day or on the system without a place to go at the end of the night,” Sandoval said in a statement.
Officials hope their efforts will not just help the homeless, but also make the commute easier for BART customers. The pilot program started this week.
The initiative is part of BART’s Homeless Outreach Program that began in San Francisco in 2017, according to BART officials.
Sandoval didn’t say how much the pilot program costs or who is funding it. It’s also unclear how long it is expected to last.
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