A New Approach to Addressing Homelessness and Reducing Recidivism
March 14, 2022
Rhett Asher
In 2021, an illegal encampment of unhoused individuals in Oakland, California, created a strain on neighbors, retailers, law enforcement, and visitors to the neighborhood. Numerous collaborative attempts to find a solution fell short, and the problem seemed insurmountable. These attempts lacked follow-through and pooled efforts. It’s the type of situation we see in cities all across America. In most instances, people don’t know where to start.

It was a different story in Oakland.

The solution to recidivism and repeat retail crime in stores is complex, and it requires addressing the root causes of crime, poverty, and unhoused individuals in your community. When issues arise, having relationships with your community’s support services and organizers can help you work toward proactive solutions.

That is where the ALTO Alliance comes in.

Creating Partnerships in the Community

Typically, retailers and law enforcement have a hard time tackling the issue of homelessness without the support of local organizations or government officials. Connecting with those community partners takes a lot of bandwidth that busy store managers and AP teams don’t always have. Members of the ALTO Alliance have a nuanced understanding of the complexity of social challenges like homelessness and its effect on community violence and crime. ALTO staff attorneys and Customer Success Specialists focus on identifying and connecting with community partners and local support groups that can aid and tackle these social issues at their root causes, whether that is housing instability, addiction, mental health issues, or something else.

Addressing the Social Issues Behind Homelessness

ALTO attorneys use effective communication and persistence to find permanent solutions to complex issues. When working on a court case, attorneys find that the person accused of the crime often is a repeat offender struggling with addiction or mental health issues. In these cases, the attorney will work with the prosecutor to ensure that social services are offered to the offender so they can get the help they need to make a sustainable change and reduce their recidivism. ALTO attorneys work alongside their clients, local civic groups, and community leaders to address homeless encampments that may be bringing crime into stores. Attorneys coordinate with community groups and nonprofits to canvas and offer social services and alternative housing options. In I many cases, residents of these encampments elect to pursue those resources and housing options. The impact that housing and access to electricity and water have on displaced community members dramatically improves the quality of life and safety for all of the community and is extremely beneficial in reducing retail crime.

ALTO Attorneys in Action to Reduce Recidivism

ALTO Lead Attorney Xochitl Carrion recalls the example of her work in Oakland. She said, “We started working with a homeless encampment, in which there was a lot of crime, violence, and weapons putting retail employees and community members at risk. So, we worked with our clients, government agency partners, and the community to establish a space where these residents would have supportive transitional housing for at least one year.” “Almost every resident who lived in this homeless encampment transitioned into these homes and was provided access to resources like social workers and employment services. There’s a lot of issues with mental health and substance abuse in our communities that fuel retail crime, and it’s that kind of thoughtfulness, active engagement, and access to community resources that improve people’s lives and help reduce recidivism.”