02/09/2011 09:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Layla DeStaffany: Fighting Homelessness At The Denver Police Department

When most people think of the Denver Police Department, the first thought that comes to mind is unlikely to be homeless outreach.

But that's exactly what Officer Layla DeStaffany has done every day since 2007 as a member of the DPD's Homeless Outreach program.

Since 2000, the Department has designated an officer to work specifically with homeless populations.

However, in 2006, as a part of a broader effort to eradicate homelessness, the city received a grant to designate 2 full-time police officers to work with civilian organizations like Denver's Road Home and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

DeStaffany, who joined the Denver Police Department in 2002 after a career as an airline pilot, jumped at the opportunity to join the new unit. "I Really wanted to help people. This position opened up, and I was excited about," she remembers

"We're advocates for the homeless, but we also have a law enforcement responsibility," says DeStaffany of her responsibilities with the unit. She explains that she and her partner, Officer Rob Parks, "work on complex cases" often involving "people who are in severe crisis who are a danger to themselves, and a danger to each other."

DeStaffany says that the unit complements civilian outreach workers from organizations like Denver's Road Home because they have the legal authority to compel people to use state resources mental health examinations.

Through her work with the Denver Police Department, DeStaffany says she's gotten to know and appreciate the life stories of several homeless individuals throughout town.

Likewise, she takes pride in knowing that homeless communities throughout Denver know and respect her work. "We have a pretty good reputation for doing right by the homeless," she says.