Homeless Outreach Worker (HOW) Best Practices 2018

San Diego, California

Homeless outreach is an essential step towards meeting people experiencing long-term or multiple
episode homelessness and developing the critical relationships necessary for supporting transition to
affordable housing and/or needed treatment. At a discussion among outreach workers in Washington, DC,
one participant described the reasons for providing outreach to people experiencing homelessness:
“Waiting for people to come to us didn’t work…so what we’re doing is going to where people are
comfortable, to where they are right now, because that’s probably most effective.” This description
highlights three essential aspects of outreach. First, outreach and engagement means “going to where
people are,” rather than waiting for them to seek services at a specific place. Second, traditional
approaches to site-based social services may not be accessible for people who are marginalized, such as
homeless individuals and families. Finally, workers (HOWs) provide outreach because it is “probably
most effective.” (Olivet et al., 2010)


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