Coordinated Street Outreach services
Friends & Neighbors (F&N) is the sole provider of Coordinated Street Outreach services in York County. Due to the increase in the number of people struggling with homelessness and housing insecurity the need for our services continues to increase. Street outreach team members maintain current knowledge of supportive services including (but not limited to) emergency shelter availability, critical service provider procedures, community-based services, and York City/County policies regarding the unsheltered population. As they engage unsheltered neighbors and assess their needs, they are prepared to provide accurate information to service recipients and connect them to applicable services. In many cases, street outreach team members engage unsheltered neighbors multiple times each week. Through these engagements, team members build respectful and trusting relationships with service recipients and are able to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying circumstances that have led to the recipients’ current situations. This often allows advocates to suggest and coordinate additional service opportunities that ideally lead to stable housing for the service recipient. This “hands on” approach is more comprehensive than some other outreach efforts. The specific activities often include physically guiding a service recipient to shelter, helping to make phone calls for benefits and other types of connections, aiding clients with acquiring essential documents (Social Security Cards, Birth Certificates, Photo ID), providing Tracfones for essential communication, wellness checks and first aid, working with clients to enter rehab or obtain mental health services, providing transportation support in order to return to a safe sheltered place (often with familial support), providing supplies to those choosing to remain outdoors, or those who cannot access shelter space for various reasons.
Prior to the launch of F&N’s street outreach efforts in 2020, no formal outreach services were provided to the unsheltered. We believe that a “collaborate always” mindset helps ensure that the continuum of services is comprehensive and complete – where neither duplicative services nor service gaps exist. This leads directly to effective and maximized efforts to make homelessness rare and temporary in York County.
Through our experience in the first year of this program, we recognized the need for multidisciplinary case conferencing for clients who have complex issues. These clients are involved not only with F&N but many of our collaborative partners. A few of the partners are: York County Coalition on Homelessness, York County Reentry Coalition, York County Probation, MH-IDD, York City Police Department, Adult Protective Services, and the START Program. When F&N or a partner agency identifies a client with complex issues, one or more representatives from each involved partner agency participate in recurring “case conferences” to share information, develop support and action plans, and create an overall strategy to help the client. Continuation of funding for our homeless outreach advocates helps ensure this approach to collaborative client services will become more and more effective over time.
Collaborative for Stable Housing in York County
The Collaborative for Stable Housing in York County was formed in early 2023 by several entities committed to working together to increase housing security in the county. Friends & Neighbors convenes and coordinates the members of the collaborative. The members came together because they believe that a collective approach is needed to address the many barriers to housing security in our community.
The primary goal of this initiative is to significantly improve the effectiveness of all services and processes related to homelessness and housing insecurity including the application for, use, and distribution of funds. A new operating framework to address homelessness and housing insecurity is required which will be created by adapting a known successful Collective Impact Model. The model addresses all issues that lead to housing insecurity including physical and mental health concerns, addiction, violence, trauma, lack of job skills, generational poverty, etc.
This model is an excellent example of a highly collaborative approach for community partnership because it focuses on bringing together diverse organizations to work together as an efficient system, rather than as a fragmented set of resources and services. Data collection, analysis, and transparency is a significant enabler of this model.
Collective Impact relies on five conditions for success:
- common agenda
- shared measurement
- mutually reinforcing activities
- continuous communication
- backbone support
F&N is providing backbone capacity that is needed to foster the cross-sector communication, alignment, and collaboration required to achieve population-level systems change.
Recently one of our partners shared this about F&N:
“F&N has deep experience in this work, and now seeks to use its expertise to take on a collective transformative approach to the problem rather than simply addressing the severe set of needs of these vulnerable individuals and families. Using their experience, and coordinating across other key providers, they can help lead this community toward the kinds of collective solutions necessary to address what is a true crisis for both individuals and our community.”