Dealing with Homelessness

Homelessness is an extremely complex social problem that impacts the quality of life in our community. There are no easy solutions.

The Lincoln Police Department (LPD) and elected officials recognize that there is a fine line between homelessness as a social issue and a criminal issue. Many homeless are on the street because of substance abuse, mental illness or both.

Often the disorder issues associated with homelessness are criminal in nature but difficult to enforce. While being homeless is not a crime, many kinds of public conduct are illegal and should be reported to the Lincoln Police Department. These include being intoxicated, loitering, prowling, fighting, trespassing, aggressive panhandling, soliciting, urinating/defecating in public, consuming alcoholic beverages in certain public places, camping or sleeping in parks, littering, obstructing sidewalks, living in a vehicle parked on a public street, disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noises, using offensive words, behaving in a threatening manner and more.

Report Homelessness Issues Every Time They Occur

Because many of the crimes involving homeless people are misdemeanors, a police officer can only arrest a person if the offense is committed in his presence. However, by reporting each instance as it occurs, the LPD can track those issues in particular areas and then proactively manage those issues before they become more problematic. To report a homelessness issue:

  • Call the Lincoln Police Department's Non-Emergency line and provide details of any offense.
  • Call 911 if it is an emergency, i.e., if the crime is in progress or about to happen and involves serious personal injury, property damage or property loss.

Please do not physically take a suspect into custody. For your safety, such action is discouraged by the Lincoln Police Department.

Avoiding Problems

The following tips will help you avoid problems with homeless people.

  • Avoid confrontations and maintain a safe distance. Use caution when dealing with them.
  • Do not offer food or money. It may encourage more panhandling. If you are inclined to help the homeless, it is better to contribute to local charities, missions, food banks or social service organizations that assist the needy.
  • Do not permit anyone to camp or loiter on your property.
  • Do not allow anyone to store shopping carts, bedding or other personal belongings on your property.
  • Restrict access to sidewalk overhangs, alcoves, or other areas protected from inclement weather.
  • Lock or remove handles from water spigots.
  • Keep trash dumpsters locked when not being filled or emptied.
  • Secure outside storage sheds or containers.
  • Lock or turn off exterior power outlets.
  • Lock gates after hours.
  • Install motion-activated exterior lighting after hours.
  • Trim landscaping to eliminate hiding places.
  • Keep property free of trash, litter, junk, etc.
  • Use graffiti-resistant paint or anti-graffiti coatings on the sides of the building and any other design features that could be vandalized.
  • Additional protection can be obtained by planting vines and bushes along the sides of the buildings. They help keep vandals away from the walls and cover areas that might otherwise be vandalized.
  • Report graffiti and other vandalism, and clean up promptly after the officers have taken pictures.
  • Establish, post, and enforce rules of conduct for public use of private property. Include signs of nighttime curfews and prohibitions of loitering, illegal lodging, drinking alcoholic beverages and drug activities. The signs should state that persons engaged in prohibited conduct will be asked to leave the property and that failure to cease the behavior or leave the property will result in a call to the LPD.
  • Install surveillance cameras to cover public areas.