Interacting with the mentally ill and homeless

When interacting with an individual who you believe may have a mental illness, or might need supportive services, treat that person with the same dignity and respect that you expect. Make eye contact, smile, and be attentive. 

There is common belief that persons with a mental illness are dangerous. This is more myth than reality. Statistically, those with mental illness are less violent than the general public. If you believe an individual is feeling threatened, or is threatening you, exercise caution.

Your physical presence and body stance communicate to others. A relaxed stance with open hands communicates acceptance and is non-threatening. If you think someone is feeling threatened or may be dangerous, be aware of how you are positioning yourself. Do not put yourself between the individual and the exit. Know where, within your physical site, you can be safe. If you get into trouble, call 911 if an emergency occurs or call 337-8994 to leave a message for a downtown beat officers.

What's against the law?


People can be arrested for committing the following criminal misdemeanors in the city of Kalamazoo. A public safety officer can arrest a person for these crimes if he or she witnesses it. If no officer is present when the violation occurs, a witness can report the matter to Public Safety and an officer will be assigned to investigate it. If the officer concludes that an offense has been committed, he or she will prepare a warrant request for review by the City Attorney and a judge. Once the warrant is signed, the violator can be arrested.


Indecent Exposure

·         A person can’t make any indecent exposure of his or her person in any public place or within public view.

Public Urination

·         A person can’t urinate or defecate while on or in any public street, sidewalk, alley, park, parking lot, parking structure, public carrier, or any other place open to the public.

Impeding Pedestrian or Vehicular Passage

·         A person can’t do any act that hinders or impedes the passage of pedestrians or vehicles on any street, sidewalk, or any other place open to the public.


Simply sitting on a park bench for hours at a time isn’t unlawful in the city of Kalamazoo. The situation becomes illegal when the loiterer:

·         By words or conduct - harasses, assaults, molests or intimidates any other person.

·         Interferees with any person's use of public streets, sidewalks, public spaces or places open to the general public (after a police officer has asked them to stop).

·         Creates a reasonable concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity or a reasonable belief that a breach of peace is imminent.

Begging & Panhandling

It’s not unlawful to ask a person for money. The situation becomes illegal when the beggar/panhandler: 

·         Expresses or implies threat or coercion.

·         Solicits handouts in a repeatedly and/or in a threatening fashion.

·         Beckons to, stops, or attempts to stop passerby repeatedly and/or in a threatening fashion.

·         Continues to solicit from a person after the person has given a negative response.

·         Utilizes threatening bodily gestures that are directed toward a person or persons.

·         States that funds are needed to meet a specific need, when the solicitor has the funds to meet that need, does not intend to use the funds to meet that need, or does not have that need.

·         Is a part of a group of two or more persons.

·         Is within 10 feet of an entrance to a building; within 20 feet of a public toilet; within 20 feet of any entrance or exit of a bank, credit union, or ATM.

·         Solicits after sunset or before sunrise.

·         Solicits in any public transportation vehicle, nor within 20 feet of where such vehicle takes or releases passengers, nor within 20 feet of a bus stop.

·         Solicits in parking lots and ramps.


Report the crime by calling 911.


Be willing to come forward as a witness. Kalamazoo Public Safety officers can’t issue a case without your help.

The information on this page is available to download and print. Brochures are also available at Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated: 141 East Michigan Avenue, 5th Floor.