Homeward and the Greater Richmond region have accepted the 100 day challenge to house 110 homeless veterans. While we know this is possible, we also know that it will take a lot of work. One of the first steps is outreach: making sure we are connecting with homeless veterans in our community.
What is outreach? Outreach is providing services to populations that might otherwise lack access. “Outreach is anytime a person engages with someone else when you’re not sitting behind a desk. I am making myself accessible for folks to engage with me,” says Crystal Rivera, Housing Transition Outreach Coordinator at the Daily Planet.
My first day at Homeward was an eye-opener.
I came in the office with a smiling face prepared to start working. I had my communications thinking cap on, and I was ready to edit a few documents, tap into a little bit of social media, and look at some current events surrounding homelessness. But little did I know that before I could even get settled in, I’d be asked to hop in a van and participate in Homeward’s Solution Provider Training.
As an outsider, it can be easy to see homelessness as a deeply entrenched issue that will always be a reality. There are countless reasons why individuals and families find themselves experiencing a housing crisis, and some just seem more resilient than others. The more I think about the issue, however, the more I realize that the solution to homelessness itself (not poverty – that’s a bigger issue) is pretty simple: get people off the streets and into housing. Real progress and strategies towards ending homelessness were the focus of the 2014 National Alliance to End Homelessness conference that took place in Washington, DC. While there were many themes and important takeaways from the event, if I had to pick just one it would be this: ending homelessness (itself) is absolutely possible and is already happening in communities across the country.
We know that data is critical to ending homelessness as it allows us to understand who is experiencing homelessness and informs service providers what is needed to quickly transition clients into permanent housing. Getting data can be difficult, and requires the presence of numerous volunteers in order to reach the maximum amount of individuals. The more people we talk to, the better the picture we get of area homelessness.
On September 27, Kelly and I attended a conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and co-sponsored by Council of Community Services,Homeward, The Planning Council, Project HOPE, Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, Virginia Department of Veterans’ Services, and Commonwealth of Virginia – Governor’s Office. The conference was titled Collaborative Impact: The Case for Reducing Homelessness.
VCU and VUU students started their fall semester yesterday, beginning another year balancing classes, clubs, internships, jobs, and more. For Homeward, this means engaging college students in ending homelessness through volunteerism, internships, class projects, and homelessness education. We love that students take the time to learn about and get involved with homeless services in greater Richmond.