Reducing homelessness in the Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle BID operates a Homeless Outreach Program through Pathways to Housing DC. The program’s Homeless Outreach Team works with individuals experiencing homelessness in the Golden Triangle to connect them to critical social services — with the goal of moving them off of the street and into permanent housing. This is done by meeting people where they are, building client-centered relationships, and by establishing creative community partnerships that together, eliminate barriers to services and serve as a model for effectively breaking the cycle of homelessness. On average, the Golden Triangle’s Homeless Outreach Program ends homelessness for at least one person per month.
In 2018, Golden Triangle BID and DowntownDC BID were honored by Pathways to Housing for helping to end chronic homelessness for 125 people in one year.
Tri-Talk: Sam Lavine Talks About Ending Homelessness as a BID Outreach Worker
Since 2014, the Golden Triangle BID has partnered with Pathways to Housing DC to bring life-changing resources to individuals experiencing homelessness. In 2018, we helped 47 people receive housing. Sam Lavine is a member of the Golden Triangle’s Homeless Outreach team, working face-to-face with those in need of service. We talked to Sam about his work helping to end homelessness.
1. What does Homeless Outreach entail on a day-to-day basis?
Typically, I begin checking in on clients and introducing myself to potential new clients in the Golden Triangle area. This may include distributing water and clothing. I also do case management with clients, ensuring they have their vital documents, benefits, and connecting them to core service agencies that offer healthcare services, mental health support, and housing case management under one roof. Every day presents its own breakthroughs, disappointments, and sometimes slow progress. Much of the day is spent traveling around the Golden Triangle area finding and hoping to find those that are in need of services. It is important to be patient when building rapport with clients, keeping in mind that it may take many months for them to be receptive to services, and possibly even more time to be able to take advantage of a housing opportunity. For some, it may take years between their first engagement with an outreach specialist and getting those keys to their own apartment.
2. Tell us a little about the “Housing First” model.
Housing First means there are no conditions that have to be met before the person moves in. Housing is provided in apartments that are spread throughout the District, with each client holding their own lease. Using “scattered sites,” we are able to give each client choice in where they would like to live, helping to foster a sense of home and self-determination. Stable, supportive housing is merely the first step towards reintegrating into their community, rebuilding family relationships, reconnecting with their faith fellowships, and experiencing an improvement in overall physical health and psychological well-being. So, while the model is simple, the Housing First program is very complex and requires dedicated staff to coordinate all aspects — including outreach, housing, healthcare, treatment, and case management — of the program in order for the people we serve to be successful in their recoveries.
3. Why is this type of service so important in cities?
This work is important because it involves serving those who may not otherwise be open to seeking out assistance without some support. It means a lot to me because it provides an opportunity to build meaningful relationships. Through getting to know my clients, a sense of familiarity and trust is established, and from that point, my clients and I work together to achieve attainable goals. It is incredibly challenging, but also more rewarding than any work I’ve done before. I work to build trust with those experiencing homelessness first by helping to meet some of their basic needs — such as food, clothing, showers, laundry, transportation and identification. Then, I partner with each individual to access housing, employment, medical care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and other services. The approach is important because it is not about maintaining homelessness; it is about ending homelessness for those living on the streets of DC. The goal of our outreach program is to connect people living on the street with housing and the life-saving services they need as quickly as possible.
*This TriTalk article was originally published in the August 2019 issue of the Golden Triangle Newsletter.