The following is an excerpt from the September 2017 PPTFH Newsletter. You can read the Full September 2017 Newsletter Here.
The Outreach Team Never Says "Never"
Kevin Wallentine, PPTFH Communications Committee
If you’ve come to a PPTFH community meeting or read an article about the people the Task Force has helped, you’ve heard about the great work the Outreach Team is doing. Since 2016, they’ve engaged 106 people, moved 48 people off the streets, and housed 34 people. But what exactly does the Outreach Team do? And how are they achieving such great results?
Outreach is a long, intensive process that extends from making contact with homeless individuals to securing housing and continuing care for them. In partnership with PPTFH, The People Concern’s Glanda Sherman and Maureen Rivas are there every step of the way. They’re out making the rounds in the Palisades, forging connections, and letting people know that help is available. They’re managing cases to provide both immediate necessities (a bed, laundry facilities, a hot shower) and long-term assistance (healthcare, housing services, reconnecting with family). And they’re supporting clients making the final transition into housing.
Glanda and Maureen have witnessed some remarkable transformations, including someone who’s gone from sitting alone in Temescal Canyon Park to living with their cat in a cheery apartment. But they recognize it’s never a simple process. “People want instant results,” Glanda says, “but nothing really happens until a person is able to feel comfortable with you and you’re able to start building that relationship and trust.” So Maureen chats with someone about a favorite band until they’re ready to share more personal information, and Glanda offers a water bottle, hoping a homeless person is willing to ask for something more. While they’ve seen teams from other agencies give up after a quick offer of assistance, Glanda and Maureen realize that establishing trust takes time. The reputation they’ve built in the homeless community yields results for both the people they’ve met and for people seeking them out after hearing they’re—as Maureen puts it—“the real deal.”
The path to a home and stability is not without setbacks, however. It’s hard to see a client you care about showing old symptoms or giving up on treatment. It’s even harder to have a client you’ve come to know pass away. Maureen becomes emotional telling of a Vietnam veteran who battled PTSD, alcoholism, and societal neglect before passing away. Glanda recounts a bittersweet victory, giving a dying homeless man a home worth returning to in his final days. In the face of these difficult cases, Glanda and Maureen never say “never,” remaining unflagging in their efforts to help or console. They organize medical, psychological, or hospice care, all while offering a more fundamental comfort: recognizing the humanity and worth of homeless people.
Helping homeless people is a daunting challenge, full of problems that require a range of skills and a large supply of patience. But spend a few minutes with Glanda and Maureen and you’re reassured by their nonjudgmental attitude, care, and sincerity. “We like the people we serve,” Maureen says, an understatement given the amount of concern, effort, and time they’ve put into helping people. Their past experience—Maureen as an addiction counselor, Glanda as staff member in a mental health institution—gives them flexibility to deal with various obstacles. Some days, they’re mediators deescalating arguments; other days, they’re case managers looking at the bigger picture and coordinating with PPTFH, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement. But no matter which hat they’re wearing, the Outreach Team is always striving to turn people’s lives around.