The Community Homeless Outreach Worker provides street and Community Homeless Outreach and Center - based -outreach to the homeless who are living on the street, in places not meant for human habitation and/or in an emergency shelter. Developing relationships allows the Outreach Worker to provide information and referrals in order to connect the clients with housing and service providers to find permanent housing solutions and wrap around services to end the client’s homelessness.
The Outreach Worker:
• Engages in street/community outreach activities i.e. “meeting them where they are.”
• Coordinates activities with the CHART system, Community Homeless Outreach Center, staff and clients to insure those experiencing true homelessness have the opportunity to begin engagement.
• Builds relationships with those experiencing chronic homelessness in order to connect them to housing and service providers to find permanent housing and other services.
• Collaboratively works with other homeless service providers and community emergency personnel, like the police , to identify individuals requiring connection to services.
• Work with the identified goals of the Coalition to End Homelessness, the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness and the Continuum of Care.
From Giving Up to Giving Back
Cledith Polson’s life was about to take a sudden and dramatic turn. On a cold day in March 2011, at North Queen Street Square, Cledith, known as ‘Junior’ to his friends, met Tabor Community Homeless Outreach Worker, Marlena Kirchner. Marlena recalls how she gently approached Junior to offer assistance with connecting him to services that could lead him out of the chronic homelessness he was experiencing and back into permanent housing. It was the beginning of many such encounters as Marlena got to know Junior over the coming months. Junior did not realize it then, but it was the beginning of the end of his experience of chronic homelessness.
Junior was hesitant to talk, but Marlena persisted. After seeing her ‘on the streets’ several more times, Junior decided to take a chance and talk to her. Marlena listened and learned that Junior had been homeless frequently in the past three years in his native Lancaster. Listening further, Marlena learned Junior had been living a nomadic existence, working odd jobs here and there. After returning to Lancaster, Junior applied and was approved for disability income through Social Security, but was still unable to secure permanent housing.
Junior spoke with Marlena a few more times and decided to try the new direction she offered. In May, 2011, Marlena referred Junior to the Lancaster City Housing Authority (LCHA) for a Homeless Preference voucher subsidizing his rent payments. He was placed on a waiting list and by January had a voucher in hand! While on the waiting list Junior met often with Marlena at the local Community Homeless Outreach Center (CHOC) and was referred to Tabor’s Shelter to Independent Living Program (STIL) to begin work to obtain permanent housing with Case Manager Marge Mowrer. A February 2012 meeting with local landlord Linda Arnold led to her welcoming Junior into her building. The Community Action Program (CAP) approved Junior for a security deposit. On February 9th, almost a year after his first meeting with Marlena and many years after he had been forced to give up his housing, Junior signed a lease for his own apartment; taking the final step on his long journey back into permanent housing and self-sufficiency.
Today, Junior continues to receive housing and budget counseling and meets regularly with Marge at TLC. The support he received from so many people, agencies and organizations in our community has inspired him to give back; regularly offering to help Marlena with outreach, using his personal experience to help others experiencing homelessness access the services they need to cross that bridge from homelessness to permanent housing. Junior’s story of chronic homelessness is all too common in our society.
“No one can re-write the story of their past, but anyone can write a new ending.” Junior’s initial reluctance to engage in services now has a new and happier ending ... an ending that began on a cold day in March when he met the outreach worker who wouldn’t give up on getting him back into housing. It was a process that changed not only his story, but his life.
The support Junior received from so many people inspires him to give back ... using his personal experience to help others.