Community Standards: Outreach provides an opportunity for many community members to personally become involved in assisting homeless people or programs that are established in efforts to help. However, Outreach needs to be more than just a handout of food or other items.
In order to truly help the homeless, efforts need to be centered on positive initial contact and, the building of a healthy relationship aimed at establishing and fostering trust, commitment, understanding, and true concern for the welfare of the homeless person.
One of the most successful first efforts in starting this relationship is through provision of essential human needs such as food, clothing, hygienic products, medical care and mental health intervention. These services are vital throughout Broward County, but are not a solution to homelessness.
The ability to link homeless people to case management, services aimed toward a healthy, productive lifestyle, and continued support of the homeless individual through this change should serve as the guiding principals behind all Outreach efforts.
In order to assist individuals and groups towards successful Outreach and assistance to the homeless, serious consideration should be given towards participation in the Broward County Continuum of Care program. Participation seeks to assist Outreach efforts by establishing guidelines for efforts on behalf of the homeless.
It is preferred that community assistance to the homeless be accomplished through established, formal programs. Individuals who really felt drawn towards assisting the homeless can connect to such programs through the referral services of the Broward Coalition for the Homeless. Handing a homeless person a sandwich or a dollar may provide a sense of gratification on the part of the giver; it does not necessarily assist the homeless person towards complete assistance, rehabilitation and a productive life. Many of the established, formal programs throughout Broward County are in vital need of volunteer assistance, assistance that can change a homeless person's life.
Formal, established programs need to ensure they provide crucial services, meet critical needs such as transportation, and establish linkages to other support services for the benefit of the homeless. Effective knowledge of programs and efforts on behalf of the homeless can be enhanced through participation, networking and advocacy of the Broward Coalition for the Homeless. At the same time, it is recognized that new providers are continually drawn to respond to the needs of homeless persons. Such informal providers provide fresh perspective and new dedication. They should be welcomed, offered assistance and training to offer quality assistance to homeless persons, and encouraged to share new approaches to old problems.
With relationship building a key component of successful Outreach, efforts should also focus on maintaining contact throughout the homeless person's efforts to reach self-sufficiency. Outreach should help weave a successful safety net for the person as they attempt to successfully complete any rehabilitation, training, job search, etc.
It should be recognized that each homeless person's needs and life circumstances are individual and unique. What is perceived as enabling one individual to adhere to unsuccessful coping skills is merely life sustaining to another individual. Outreach will always need to be flexible and considerate of individuals whose life experiences may have resulted in their needing compassionate outreach and services aimed at something as simple as harm reduction, over a period of many years.
Outreach efforts should make every effort to locate, identify and assist homeless people in their habitat. In creating a congregation of homeless persons, normal sensitivity should be shown to surrounding residences, businesses and other establishments. In terms of noise levels, sanitation, etc.Individuals and established, formal programs are encouraged to use commercial or religious properties for activities that would attract a number of homeless people.
Attention to local zoning for these activities is vital for successful implementation.
Meeting the medical and health needs and concerns of people assisting the homeless, as well as the homeless themselves, requires application of all appropriate hygienic and health codes and practices. Especially where food is involved, individuals and established, formal programs must ensure compliance for the medical safety of everyone concerned.
Although homeless people are more often the victims rather than the perpetrator of violence, attention to safety and security issues needs to be acute. Common sense dictates that youthful assistants are not placed in isolated situations, or individuals seek out the homeless late at night.
Individuals and established, formal programs need to have appropriate standards of conduct that address safety and security for themselves and the homeless.