Outreach on the streets of Connecticut

Thursday, 23 August 2018 - 11:19am

Ed Addison, one of this year’s transatlantic exchange participants, went to Connecticut to learn about multi-disciplinary outreach. 

group speaking

I’ve just come back from New Haven, a small city in Connecticut. I wanted to learn more about different approaches to engaging and supporting people who are street homeless. I applied to the exchange to learn about multi-disciplinary approaches.

Like much of New England, New Haven has seen an unprecedented increase in street homelessness. With long waiting lists for shelters and few other resources, my hosts, the Columbus House outreach team, certainly have a challenge on their hands.

I recorded an interview I held with some of the outreach team which can be found here. In the recording, you’ll hear more about the homelessness situation in New Haven, about the challenges they face in conducting outreach and working with certain groups like couples and those that don’t engage. They also told me about their own experiences of homelessness and how this helps them in their work.

‘I found resources to allow me to get back into school, get my degree and allow me to work on my masters to work in the field where I can help individuals that experience the things that I have experienced and try to get them to accomplish the goals that I have accomplished…..I feel that it takes a village to raise an individual and just having some community support goes a long way….when you are able to house someone who has been on the streets for 20 years and they say “thank you, this is something that I never had.” This is something that you walk away from and you can’t explain to anyone else what you feel after you are able to help someone that’s been in that situation” (Anthony).

The team see a lot of people suffering with addiction and dual diagnosis and I noticed how much of an emphasis they put on recovery. Once again, involving people with lived experience seemed to be a key part of this.

‘I too have been homeless and lived through this experience myself and used that experience to help others. Me and Rhonda are state certified as recovery support specialists, so we are able to use our lived experience to help others….I think now that they allow more of the recovery and support specialists into facilities knowing that that is a huge part: to be able to identify and be able to show them you can live through this experience and get to the other side. They believe that a lot here at Columbus House. They love having lived experiences and foster that independence in the agency itself’ (Stephanie).

Despite the challenges, the team were so motivated and passionate about their work. Their persistent and flexible approach provides a lifeline to those experiencing homelessness.

‘What motivates me to do my job well is helping people. Someone helped me so I am going to in turn return to get what they need, however they need it and whenever I can do it. It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that I am helping somebody to better their quality of life’ (Rhonda).

Click here to listen to the full interview and look out for the 2018 Exchange reports which will be published soon.

Homeless Link’s Transatlantic Practice Exchange is supported by the Oak Foundation and delivered in partnership with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Placements are funded for five frontline homelessness staff to spend a fortnight in the United States, exploring different practice topics and sharing this learning on their return.