EDMONTON -- Edmonton police are using a new approach to help vulnerable people in the community to make positive changes in their lives.

The Human-centred Engagement and Liaison Partnership (HELP) Unit is a collaboration between the Edmonton Police Service and Boyle Street Community Services. HELP navigators are trained to guide people to the services they need to stay out of the criminal justice system.

"We want to get out of the cycle of arrest, incarcerate, release," Const. Catlin Chiasson said in a video posted online. "We want to address the root cause."

Navigators can make referrals to social agencies and support services, help with getting identification and with accessing financial assistance.  

"It may take a little longer than traditional policing methods, but social policing works," acting Supt. Kelly Morgan said. "We are giving a new path for community members to live independently."

More than 15 organizations are supporting the program. The unit will move in a shared space with some of its external partners in the spring to help deliver supports and services even more efficiently.

"We're building relationships between social services and the front line, as well as the front line and the community members they're meeting on a daily basis," HELP navigator manager Doug Cooke said.

In addition to the positive impact on vulnerable individuals, EPS expects the unit will also free up officers for other calls.

HELP officially launched on Jan. 4, 2021 but began operating in 2020.