Ending homelessness by engaging with people where they are
What is street outreach?
Through street outreach, workers connect people to housing, shelter, survival gear and resources, and essential services including healthcare and recovery programs in an effort to end their homelessness.
The program consists of 105 outreach workers across more than 20 coordinated programs, with support from over 90 community-based groups. Programs emphasize peer-led strategies and workers with lived experience. Some programs specialize directly in behavioral health services. Outreach providers build trust with vulnerable and marginalized neighbors, helping them leave our streets for housing or shelter.
Outreach can include access to:
- Individualized case management
- Service navigation support
- Medical assistance
- Behavioral health services
- Addiction/substance use treatment
- Hygiene services
- Supply centers and survival gear
- Day centers
- Emergency shelter, including severe weather shelter
How street outreach works:
Each person experiencing homelessness has different needs. As an entry point to housing and support services for many people, street outreach is an essential part of ending homelessness, providing a human connection to the services and resources that can help people survive and thrive. Below is an overview of the key elements of street outreach.
Because so many different federal, state, local and community-based services are available, knowing how to find the right services can be difficult. Our partners take a collaborative approach to helping people navigate services — working with our neighbors where they are to identify what services they need, and then helping them access those services by lowering barriers. Examples include providing survival gear, conducting housing assessments, helping people sign up for the Oregon Health Plan, applying for federal benefits, or helping people access shelter, housing or behavioral health services.
Urban League of Portland
Urban League of Portland is one of Oregon’s oldest civil rights and social service organizations, empowering African-Americans and others to achieve equality in education, employment, health, economic security and quality of life.
An essential part of street outreach is providing immediate medical care to people in need, especially people experiencing chronic homelessness. We support specialized teams and partners who meet clients where they are, to provide direct medical care such as treating wounds, conducting health assessments, and supporting their health and safety by building relationships.
Portland Street Medicine
Portland Street Medicine is a coalition of volunteer medical providers, social workers, care managers and trained volunteers dedicated to reaching Portland’s most vulnerable residents. Their aim is to be at the frontline of improving healthcare for people experiencing homelessness in Portland.
Behavioral Health Services
People living with behavioral health challenges and substance use disorders face significant barriers to accessing services and finding and staying in housing. We partner with organizations that provide direct behavioral health services to clients, and we support programs like PATH (Promoting Access to Hope) that provide treatment for substance use disorders and help people access additional behavioral health and recovery services.
Cascadia Health is the largest community-based behavioral health and substance use treatment services organization in Oregon, providing mental health services, addiction recovery support, primary care, wellness programs, permanent housing solutions and affordable housing to people of all ages.
Ensuring access to hygiene services is an important part of public health, particularly for people who are living on the streets or who lack regular access to personal hygiene supplies and clean water. We support programs that provide access to hygiene services, including mobile showers and hygiene products, mobile laundry services, and cleanups of public spaces. Some of these programs also provide employment opportunities to people experiencing homelessness through training, work experience and dignified wages.
Cultivate Initiatives is a nonprofit based in East Portland focusing on meeting basic needs, including providing food, clothing, hygiene supplies, preventive and wound care, health screenings, daytime access to showers and laundry, case management, peer support, and mentorship.
Survival and supplies
We provide a central location where street outreach workers, volunteers and mutual aid groups can pick up essential supplies to distribute to people living without shelter. These workers and volunteers hand out supplies year-round, with increased distribution during cold and severe weather events. These supplies include water, sleeping bags, hygiene kits and medical supplies. To connect with the Joint Office and learn more about supply distribution, email email@example.com.
Day centers are safe and welcoming spaces where people experiencing homelessness can meet their basic needs with restrooms, showers and laundry. Onsite peer providers are able to refer clients to other services, including housing, employment, physical health, behavioral health and social services.
The JOHS also collaborates with the Multnomah County Health Department’s Behavioral Health Resource Center (333 SW Park Ave., Portland, 503-988-4100).
Built for Zero
Multnomah County is one of the largest among 90 communities working with Built for Zero to better harness data in the work to end homelessness. Locally, Built for Zero tracks chronic homelessness — making us one of the first Built for Zero partners to undertake that challenge. After launching Built for Zero and then building new data collection infrastructure with providers, expanded collection will start in 2023.