But as that post illustrated, taking the legal route is a time consuming, arduous, and often ineffective approach… Unfortunately, many homeless habitually return to centers over and over, even after an arrest and jail stay, which is usually short (as trespassing is a misdemeanor charge).
This is largely because a great many homeless are mentally unstable and tend to frequent locales they’re familiar with or comfortable in.
So, if legal action is a stalemate, what’s the solution to keeping the homeless off your property?
Here are seven strategies that have proved successful in discouraging homeless from taking up residence at retail shopping centers:
Large bushes and shrubbery positioned alongside buildings make for excellent blinds. The homeless can hide or sleep behind such vegetation day or night..
Alternatively, succulents (for ground cover) and palm trees eliminate convenient hiding places.
Diligently Trim Landscaping
But what if a complete landscape replacement planting is NOT in your budget (which is certainly true for many)? Attentive landscaping maintenance is your next best alternative.
Regularly pruning bushes and shrubbery, ensuring they’re lean and trimmed back goes a long way toward eliminating common hiding places for would-be homeless campers.
Secure Dumpsters, Trash Enclosures, Storage Sheds, and Other Out Buildings
Just about every strip center has a dumpster for trash and recycling collection. And many have trash enclosures (technically intended to keep people out of dumpsters), well others also feature storage sheds or other out buildings.
Unfortunately, these containers and storage areas are among the most popular hiding spots and sleep quarters for homeless campers. Ensuring such containers and areas are always under lock + key provides a strong deterrent.
Restricting Access to Any Areas Open to Potential Loitering
Many strip centers have overhangs and alcoves in various places around the building exterior.
Gating, fencing or otherwise limiting access to these areas eliminates another hiding and sleeping spot popular among homeless campers.
The clutter of litter and trash gives a property an unkempt aura. And such locations seem to invite transients, as they tune into the vibe that: “no one maintains this property, so no one will bother me here.” Moreover, homeless tend to blend into poorly maintained centers, appearing to be part of the property’s “natural landscape.”
The presence of homeless is quite apparent, however, at a property that’s clean, clear and well-maintained.
As such, keeping your property clean and well-maintained is another strong deterrent.
Onsite Security or Security Patrol
If homeless loitering or camping at your center is a particularly egregious problem, and the legal route has proven ineffective, private security is another option.
Of course, you would bill the service back to your tenants as a CAM expense. Given the added cost, however, private security only makes sense if tenants agree the homeless presence is a strong detriment to their business, and security is only reliable recourse.
But keep in mind, there are options to mitigate costs. A regular security patrol is a lower cost alternative to permanently installing a security guard onsite.
Proactive Response Plan
Whether you’ve gone the legal route and have a standing police order, contract with private security, or have designated a property manager to deal with the homeless, defining a specific response plan is a useful tool.
If a tenant notices a loitering transient, who do should they contact first? And how is the response escalated from there?
A swift and consistent response is often an effective deterrent to homeless occupation of your center.
Need Help Clearing the Homeless From Your Shopping Center or Managing Other Aspects of Your Retail Property?
For many retrial strip centers, homeless are a fact of life. And any hope of completing eliminating the problem is unlikely to come to pass.
But as outlined above, there are strategies to mitigate the problem. And hiring a professional property management firm can help!
A property manager can…
== > Solicit competitive landscaping bids, should you decide to redesign your landscaping.
== > Monitor landscaping and oversee vendors to ensure your center’s vegetation remains trimmed and lean.
== > Monitor dumpsters, trash enclosures, and other storage facilities to ensure they’re clear homeless intruders and locked up tight.
== > Monitor sweeping and trash collection vendors to ensure your property remains clean and clear of trash and other debris.
== > Solicit bids for security services, should you decide to hire private security.
== > Act as the contact point-person in your proactive response plan, initiating either police or security contact.
Meanwhile, this is a just thin sliver of the services professional property management provides.