Street Outreach Program

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FOF’s street outreach program got up and running a little over a year ago with it being a brand-new program to us. We have two Outreach specialists. One is in Black Hawk County and the other covers North Central & Northeast Iowa. The purpose of the street outreach program is to meet individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness where they are. This could be living in their car, encampments in the woods, and on the street.  

Why are we doing this? Street outreach work can help us to reach clients who we normally would not be able to connect with. They might not have phones and cannot call housing hotlines, have access to resources, or do not know how to access them or if it is something they would qualify for. The outreach workers can help connect people experiencing homelessness to resources to help stabilize them and get them off the streets. This could be connecting them to food stamps, community meals, food banks, helping them fill out SSI/SSDI paperwork, obtaining ID’s, and other things to get them ready for housing and hopefully meet their needs to the best of our ability.  

When we are going out and connecting with people who are actively in crisis and not safe on the street, we are trying to build a connection with them. We want to build trust. Reducing barriers to services for them so if they can access housing, reconnect with family, or self-resolve it is easier for them to do so. Trauma-informed care, being respectful, and creating a safe, open, and friendly space is how we try and do this.  

Since starting this program, we have connected with so many people. In North Central Iowa, we have been able to do several nighttime outreach events where food has been donated from local pantries and pizza places. As well as getting soda donations from Pepsi, and community members cooking hot meals. FOF can go out, connect with people, meet them where they are, assess them and get them placed on the list. As well as giving them some food and other hygiene items, blankets, and other donations we must get them by.  

This program has had several successful outcomes over the past year. We had one individual who was sleeping where they could. Park benches, under bridges, ect. They got a job and started working while they were still on the street, got clean, and ended up only needing one-time assistance to help with a deposit and could afford their rent ongoing. We connected with others staying in their car, got them assessed, and pulled them within weeks of the assessment, and the housing support specialist housed them within days of being pulled. These are just a few examples of these individuals’ successes. We are glad to be a small part of their story and to get to be a support to them.