From time to time we will examine national strategies on ending homelessness and how they relate to us here locally in Lancaster County.
In order to effectively approach homelessness, a community needs a clear, deliberate, and comprehensive strategy. In the Ten Essentials, the National Alliance to End Homelessness outlines the ten components necessary in a successful plan to end homelessness. The Ten Essentials covers the most important strategies for success: prevention, re-housing options, outreach, access to housing and services, and efficient use of data, among others.
An important role in ending homelessness is outreach to people experiencing homelessness. A key ingredient to this outreach is the ability to connect the homeless population to housing and services. When considering outreach efforts, it’s important to understand that many people living on the streets exhibit mental illness, substance addiction, and other negative behavior patterns.
Today is an appropriate day to talk about outreach, as today is our local Point in Time (PIT) count, the day in the year when volunteers and staff comb the area for people literally homeless---on the streets, living in cars or places considered uninhabitable. The County Outreach Worker in Lancaster is Guy Boyer, who along with help from caseworkers from Community Services Group and the Lebanon Veterans Administration Medical Center, daily perform this task, and lead the efforts, along with the Lancaster Coalition to End Homelessness (LCCEH) for the annual PIT count. The purpose, while knowing that it is only one day, is to give a snapshot of year over year numbers of people experiencing homelessness to see how we as a community are doing. We will report those numbers to you when we get them and what they mean going forward in the ongoing efforts to fight homelessness.
Between 5-7 AM this morning, 9 individuals were found sleeping outside by Guy. Guy knew most of them and has been working with them for solutions. His job is to meet, engage and refer to services. This process often takes time, a lot of time. If not for Guy’s persistence and the help of the other organizations in the LCCEH this number would be much higher. One quick example of the diligence and persistence it takes follows: Guy has regularly seen a man for over 4 years who has been, by choice, living outdoors. Guy consistently checked in with him, always wondering and asking if this was the day, the gentleman would allow Guy to refer him to services including shelter. Within the last month, he finally accepted and is now in shelter, in from the elements. Four years later....great job Guy and keep up the good work.
Please always know if you see someone who is homeless and you do not know where to turn you can reach out through our website, www.tlclancaster.org, and we will do all we can to make contact and make a prudent referral to services.