5 Thoughts on Street Outreach to Housing

Iain DeJong, President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting, shared some of his thoughts concerning the process of transitioning homeless individual through street outreach to housing. This article was originally published on OrgCode’s blog.

In a few weeks time we are delivering Street Outreach to Housing Training in Tennessee. Here are five thoughts that may encourage you to come and join us, or send others from your community:

1. Encampments are difficult to maintain if you are a person experiencing homelessness. A well organized encampment, when assessed and understood properly, can be a clear sign that the person has a number of organizational and life skills to make the leap directly to housing.

2. Great street outreach to housing work allows you to assist people in moving directly from living outdoors into apartments of their own without even requiring going through coordinated entry, in several instances. The income (once you factor in informal income sources) and resilience of the person can make them a great candidate for accessing housing without needing Rapid ReHousing or Permanent Supportive Housing resources.

3. Technology is your friend in outreach. The measure of great outreach is not how many new people are found each day, or how many contacts are had with people that are already known. It is about selectively and intensively working with a small group of people to resolve their homelessness, not prolonging their homelessness. Google Maps, shared databases, and the ability to take photos is just about all that is necessary to become hyper-organized in street outreach across outreach providers, parks, by-law, etc.

4. Different entities working at cross purposes is a s*** show. You need to know how to structure a protocol across different groups like outreach, by-law, police, etc. so that there is measurable accountability of who has the lead in which aspects of the work, when and how to measure service efforts towards housing, and when and under which conditions a response by others (non-outreach staff) may be triggered to remove a camp – and even then, what is the role of outreach staff.

5. When the outreach worker is the conduit to resources it inadvertently results in dependencies and prolonged homelessness. If the outreach worker is not equipped with the right skills for contact with action, then outreach quickly fails. The measure of successful street outreach is not “trust” in and of itself (as some outreach workers claim), but the ability to use skills like Motivational Interviewing and Assertive Engagement to translate trust into the belief that the outreach worker can really resolve their homelessness.

We hope you will consider coming to join us in Tennessee in a few weeks. There are still a few spots. You can register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/street-outreach-to-housing-nashville-tn-tickets-29079301975  and get a 15% discount if you use passcode AWESOME.

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