Homeless coalition works out system to raise alarm about missing vulnerable people

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Driven to action by the disappearance of a London woman, the city’s homeless coalition has developed a new way to track vulnerable people and contact police when they go missing.

Under the plan, agencies would take 24 hours to conduct a citywide check on a person believed missing, then file an official report with police to get an investigation under way.

“It is a way for us to work together to make sure folks aren’t falling through the cracks and are safe, and if not, we know as soon as possible,” Abe Oudshoorn, of the London Homeless Coalition, said Tuesday.

“We are not going to waste time,” he added.

The coalition adapted and adopted a protocol on Monday developed earlier by London’s Street Level Women at Risk program.

Both groups began working on a better way to figure out when people have gone missing, and what to do about it, in the wake of the disappearance of Shelley Desrochers.

The 42-year-old mother and grandmother, who struggled with addiction and worked in the sex business, went missing in early January 2016.

But family and friends didn’t realize she had disappeared for a couple of weeks, and London police didn’t issue a missing persons notice until 12 days after getting calls from family and agencies.

The disappearance of a woman described as a bubbly, loyal woman “really hit home,” Oudshoorn said at the time.

The street level women at risk group quickly began developing a protocol on how to deal specifically with reports of missing sex workers

The London Homeless Coalition approved a wider-use protocol Monday, and will now ask dozens of agencies across the city to sign up and make one person the contact for when someone seems to go missing.

The protocol includes several key steps, starting when a worker in an organization becomes concerned that a client hasn’t been in contact.

First, the organization’s head is contacted, and a quick check is done with staff, volunteers and internal records to confirm the last known contact.

If there’s still a concern, that same organization will check with other agencies used by the client and a landlord if appropriate, and ask London police to check on the client’s welfare.

After 24 hours, if there’s no word from any of the other agencies, the organization that first grew alarmed is responsible to file a missing person report to police.

That report would include descriptions and details gathered from all the agencies that know the missing person.

The London Homeless Coalition will then use social media to spread the word to others.

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