Homelessness is on the rise, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and many of the homeless wind up in shopping centers, which can create a whole host of problems for retailers, employees, customers, and the community. Regardless of the size, type or demographics of a community retail center, this is a growing problem and a sensitive issue.
Why Do the Homeless Choose Retail Centers?
These centers are viewed as public spaces, and homelessness in itself is no crime, so they may feel they have a right to be there just like any other community member. Often, there is the appeal of onsite bathrooms, food and possible exchange of money. These centers are also less frequently patrolled by police, in contrast with parks or other community spaces; the time and resources of law enforcement may be stretched too thin to regularly handle a property’s ongoing issue with transients. The latter point is why creative solutions may be necessary.
When Traditional Solutions Fail
The police can move the homeless from one retail center, but they may simply move between nearby centers, eventually landing back on your property, and sooner than later. The delicate nature and intricacies of homelessness make it more than just a nuisance to business as well.
As noted, the regular presence of law enforcement is often not realistic; however, scheduling periodic meetings between tenants and an officer can be very helpful. In addition to discussing concerns and preventative solutions, there can be education on long-term solutions. These solutions include organizations that track homeless individuals to help solve their situations and police homeless liaisons which may connect with community outreach programs. These meetings also facilitate trust between tenants and law enforcement.
Reduce Possible Hiding Areas by:
- Keeping landscape trimmed
- Securing storage sheds, containers, and dumpster enclosures
- Restricting access to sidewalk overhangs, alcoves and other areas that can conceal loitering
Maintenance as Prevention:
- Keep the property free of trash and litter, as a clean property can make signs of transients stand out, instead of their presence blending into a poorly maintained center
- Have onsite maintenance staff that is diligent, so signs of transients are quickly detected
- Have a proper security team and resources to act quickly to remove congregating transients
- Have a plan for a proactive response which will signal to transients that this is not a safe place to live or loiter
Ask Your Facility Service Provider How They Can Help
What maintenance might your facility service company suggest, and how can their presence on your property discourage transients? At TWS Facility Services, we act as the eyes and ears for your property when you authorize us to create a service plan that suits your property’s needs. This can reduce your personal time and energy in solving these problems, and it can also save money and resources in the long-run.
The proactive measures used to keep your property safe and clean benefits customers, tenants, and the whole community, and they also lead to a successful property.