Snohomish County sheriff's Sgt. Ian Huri speaks with Rochelle Hammond at a homeless encampment in Everett in August. Sgt. Huri and social worker Jesse Calliham had been working with Hammond and other residents to get them connected with social services. (Genna Martin / The Herald)

Part 3: Cops and social workers team up on the streets

What Jail Can’t Cure
Part 1: The justice system fails Keaton Farris
Part 2: A sheriff refuses to ‘warehouse the mentally ill’
Part 3: Cops and social workers team up on the streets
Part 4: With help, a homeless alcoholic finds redemption

EVERETT — The sheriff’s sergeant walked past an abandoned shopping cart and hooked a right onto a well-worn path that disappeared into a stand of trees in south Everett.

A line of sagging tents flanked by piles of garbage came into view.

“Hello,” Sgt. Ian Huri shouted.

A woman, 50, sat in a tent, smoking. A man, also 50, was making a sandwich in the dirt. Huri recognized another woman, 45. She’s been homeless off and on for 15 years. The woman, an alcoholic and heroin addict, has been booked into the county jail 43 times since 1999.

The trio seemed resigned to being harassed.

That July afternoon Huri wasn’t there to make an arrest. He asked their names. He told them he wasn’t taking anyone to jail, that he was interested in their stories.

It’s not an easy pitch. People see the uniform and gun. They know the drill.

Huri looked the man in the eye. He nodded as the older woman talked about living in the camp, her mental illness and her appetite for heroin. She showed off a black kitten, napping in the tent. The mama cat was a good mouser, she said.

“You don’t want to spend another winter out there, right?” Huri said.

He asked them if they knew about the county’s phone number to get social services. He offered his phone. There were no takers, maybe another day. He promised to bring trash bags next time he stopped by. They were tired of the piles of garbage.

Huri spent years flushing out the county’s most prolific criminals and hauling them to jail as part of a elite team of patrol deputies. These days he calls himself a matchmaker.

Huri oversees the sheriff’s Office of Neighborhoods. He is in charge of a new endeavor that pairs deputies with a social worker. Everett police have an identical program. Police departments across the country are trying similar approaches.

The reality, they say, is that police often are the first to encounter people who need social and medical services more than a trip to jail. Teaming officers with a social worker can connect mentally ill people with health care, or help someone find housing.

“We want to guide them to services, not push them into another jurisdiction,” Huri said.

Some afternoons he meets with charities and social service groups. Other days he and county social worker Jesse Calliham visit the urban camps.

Huri is building rapport with people on the periphery.

He returned multiple times to the trio’s camp. He brought trash bags. Likewise, Everett police accompanied by their social worker, Lauren Rainbow, encouraged and nudged.

By September the older woman with the kitten was off the street, living with a friend and being assessed for treatment. A month later she was back in another camp. Huri isn’t giving up. The officers heard that the other woman moved on.

The group found the man a bed at a detox center in Tukwila. Rainbow arranged for him to enter a year-long treatment program through the Salvation Army. He was worried about his cat. Calliham and Rainbow talked to him about adoption. He decided to let Huri take the cat to the animal shelter and the sergeant agreed to store some of his possessions for awhile.

The team drove the man to the detox center. Once there he mentioned an abscess on his arm. They took him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and made sure he was back that night so he wouldn’t lose his place at the treatment center.

“I think if we simply put him on a bus the barriers would have been too much,” Huri said. “I think this is proof that our engagement and encouragement will work for those who want to take the help.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

What Jail Can’t Cure
Part 1: The justice system fails Keaton Farris
Part 2: A sheriff refuses to ‘warehouse the mentally ill’
Part 3: Cops and social workers team up on the streets
Part 4: With help, a homeless alcoholic finds redemption

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